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Editor's Preface to Alciphron, or, The Minute Philosopher ... i 

Containing an Apology for the Christian Religion, against 

those who are called Free-Thinkers. 1732 13 


Editor's Preface to Siris 341 

SIRIS : a Chain of Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries con- 
cerning the virtues of Tar-water, and divers other subjects 
connected together and arising one from another. 1744 . 357" 


Appendix to the Editor's Preface to Alciphron 511 


Page 354, line 18; p. 366, mote 9, 1. 14, for ' Goltenjcen ' read 


Page 433, note 42, 1* j, for * S. Gravesandc ' read * 'S. Gravesande.' 
Page 468, note 42, 1. 66, for 'their read ' Theil.' 
Page 503, 1. 2, for ' Hypothesis ' read ( Hypostasis.' 





ALCIPHRON, or, the Minuil Philosopher, published in 1732, is the 
largest, and probably the most popular, of Berkeley's works. Its popu- 
larity is due at once to its matter and its form. About twenty years had 
elapsed since the publication of the author's juvenile treatises on Vision, 
Human Knowledge, and the Sensible World. The same subtle intellec*, 
enriched by experience of mankind in Europe and America, and after 
frequent intercourse with the freely speculating spirits of the time, 
is found employed in Alciphron in the construction of a philosophical 
* apology for the Christian religion/ at a time when, according to 
Bishop Butler, it had come * to be taken for granted that Christianity 
is not so much as a subject of inquiry; but that it is now at length 
discovered to be fictitious 1 / And this practical application of meta- 
physical ingenuity to the moral and religious scepticism of the early 
part of the century in which Berkeley lived takes the form of Dialogues, 
that are better fitted than any in our language to enable the English 
reader to realize the charm of Cicero and Plato. 

The 'minute philosophers' represent English Free-thinkers in the 
early part of the eighteenth century. Alciphron should be studied in 
the light of the history of English Deism from the time of Hobbes 2 ; 
but with more particular reference to what was said or written by 
Collins, Mandeville, and Shaftesbury, as well as to the explanation and 
defence of theological knowledge by Bishop Brown [Browne]. While 
the work is an attempt to restore the moral and religious belief of its 

1 See Butler's Analogy Advertisement. Deismus, (Stuttgart, 1841,) and I/eland's 
The Analogy was published in 1736. View of (be Principal Deistical Writers. 

8 See Lechler's Gescbicbte des Engliscben 

B 2 


own time, it abounds in interesting analogies to preceding and subse- 
quent efforts to sustain, or to extinguish, faith in a Future Ljfe, and in the 
existence of a Divine Order in the physical and moral universe. 

Although Alciphron is Berkeley's most direct act in the English 
' deistical controversy/ it should not be forgotten that the moral inspira- 
tion f of almost all his previous works was the struggle in the midst 
of which he lived between those who sought to exclude, and those 
who sought to retain Christian Theism, as the supreme rule and motive 
of human life. The questions of the English Deists and Free-thinkers, 
in the half century which followed the Revolution of 1688, were for him 
the then living form of the perennial struggle between Faith and 
Scepticism. Reaction against an irreligious philosophy spread the glow 
of earnest human feeling over his Dialogues on Matter, published almost 
twenty years previously, with the Jntent to prove ' the incorporeal 
nature of the Soul, and the immediate Providence of Deity, in op- 
position to Sceptics and Atheists;' uid in the same year in which 
these Dialogues were published he was contributing essays to the 
Guardian, in reply to the objections of Free-thinkers. Writings 
which he published in the interval the tract De Motu, and the Essay 
towards preventing the Ruin of Great Britain were animated by a 
similar spirit. 

There is a greater appearance of learning in Alciphron than in any 
of Berkeley's earlier works. Authorities are more frequently cited, in- 
cluding ancient as well as modern philosophers, and allusions are spon- 
taneous and abundant which indicate greater familiarity with literature, 
and more extensive observation of the world. The appeals to the 
imagination, in the form of rural pictures, are also more bold and striking, 
and in many parts the work has the charm and sentiment of a pastoral 

This artistic charm of these beautiful dialogues is connected with 
Berkeley's residence in Rhode Island, in 1729 and the two following 
years. Alciphron was written during his stay there, in the bosom of his 
family, and the scenes were naturally suggested by American inci- 
dents or landscapes. The opening sentences in the First Dialogue 
seem to have been occasioned by the disappointment of his Bermuda 
project. At Rhode Island, he was accustomed to study in an alcove 
among the rocks on that magnificent coast, in a region where he had 
exchanged the society of the philosophers and men of letters of London 
and Paris for a solitude occasionally broken by the unsophisticated 
missionaries of the New England plantations, who travelled great 
distances to converse with him. 


The following curious passage in Dr. Chandler's 'Life' (p. 57) of 
Berkeley's American friend and disciple, Dr. Samuel Johnson, illustrates 
some passages m the Minute Philosopher. 

'While the Dean [Berkeley] resided at Rhode Island, he composed 
his Alciphron, or, Minute Philosopher, written, by way Oj dialogue, in the 
manner of Plato. J The design of it was to vindicate the Christian 
religion, in answer to the various objections and cavils of atHeists, 
libertines, enthusiasts, scorners, critics, metaphysicians, fatalists, and scep- 
tics. In the "Advertisement" prefixed to these Dialogues, the author 
affirms that he was well assured one of the most noted writers against 
Christianity had declared he had found out a Demonstration against the 
being of a God. Mr. Johnson, in one of his visits to the Dean, con- 
versing with him on the subject of the work then on hand, was more 
particularly informed by him that he himself (the Dean) had heard this 
strange declaration, while he was present in one of the [London?] deistical 
clubs, in the pretended character of a learner ; that Collins was the man 
who made it; and that the "demonstration" was what he afterwards 
published, in an attempt to prove that every action is the effect of fate 
and necessity, in his book entitled A Philosophical Inquiry concerning 
Human Liberty. And indeed, could the point be once established, that 
everything is produced by fate and necessity, it would naturally follow 
that there is no God, or that He is a very useless and insignificant 
Being, which amounts to the same thing/ 

In March 1732, very soon after Berkeley's return from America, the 
first edition of Alciphron was published in Dublin with the Essay 
towards a New Theory of Vision annexed, ' printed for G. Risk, G. Ewing, 
and W. Smith, booksellers in Dame Street;' and a second followed in 
London, ' printed for J. Tonson, in the Strand/ some months later 
in the same year. The work has been frequently republished since 
Berkeley's death. Passages introduced by the author into the second 
edition, and afterwards omitted, seemingly by inadvertence, in the 
posthumous republications, are restored and bracketed in the present 
edition 3 . 

A French version appeared at the Hague in 1734. It was the earliest 
translation of any of Berkeley's writings into a foreign language Sin's 

8 After this Preface was written, and his death. It contains a few additions, 

the sheets of Alcipbron were almost all for the most part of little importance, but 

passed through the press, I discovered a is remarkable for omitting sect. 5 7 in 

third edition, rare and, like the second, Dial. VII. A detailed account of the third 

apparently unknown to Berkeley's editors, edition is given in the Appendix to this 

which appeared in 1752, some weeks before volume. 


following, at Amsterdam, in 1745, and the Dialogues of Hylas and Philo- 
nous in 1750. 

The first American edition was published at NewhaVen 1 in 1803. It 
contains a short recommendatory Preface by Dr. Timothy Dwight, Pre- 
sident of Yale .College, which describes the work as ' an able defence of 
Divine Revelation, by one of the first philosopheis of any age and 
country, in a series of Dialogues, involving most of the questions in 
debate between Christians and infidels/ 


The first of the seven Dialogues is introductory; the two next are 
Ethical; the fourth is a defence of the Presence and Providence of 
God, as the foundation of practical morals; and in the three last, the 
spiritual and civilizing advantages of Christianity, with other proofs of 
its being Divine, as well as objections to its evidence and mysteries, 
are discussed. Berkeley's ingenuity and fancy are employed here in 
defending practical morality and moral order against ethical theories 
founded on selfishness, like Mandeviile's, or on enthusiastic senti- 
ment, as he regarded Shaftesbury's ; while his metaphysical philo- 
sophy is engaged for the support of Theism, and in the refutation 
of objections to its development in the Christian form. The social 
utility of faith in virtue and in a future life ; the Supreme Intelli- 
gence and Goodness which governs the existence in which we par- 
ticipate when we become conscious; the sufficiency of the Christian 
evidence for the reasonable demands of faith or action; and the pos- 
sibility and practical value of the mysteries of theology, are all argued 
in the light of ethical or metaphysical philosophy, and of experience 
of the world 4 . 

The first and second editions of the Minute Philosopher are in two 
volumes one containing the first five Dialogues, and the other the two 
last, along with the New Theory of Vision. The title-page of the first 
volume represents in vignette the * fountain of living waters/ and the 
' balances of deceit' are exhibited, in like manner, on the title-page of 
the second. These quaint and characteristic engravings are preserved 
in the present edition. 

In the discussion, Alciphron and Lysicles represent 'minute philo- 
sophy/ or free-thinking; the former in its more intellectual and gene- 
rous aspect, and the latter as adopted by shallow men of the world who 
live for pleasure. Euphranor and Crito advocate morality and religion. 
Dion, who personates Berkeley, is mostly a spectator in the controversy. 

. * The Ethical Philosophy of Berkeley and Fourth Dialogues of A Icipbron, compared 
may be gathered from the Second, Third, With his Discourse of Passive Obedience. 


In the First Dialogue, the party endeavour to find some general 
principles regarding Free-thinkers, and the matters in debate between 
them and their Opponents, in which they can all agree. At the end of 
this Dialogue, Alciphron is made to acknowledge that beliefs which are 
indispensable to the happiness of men and to the comirpn weal are true 
and genuine principles of human action, and, therefore, to be esteemed 
natural to man. He had previously been disposed to argue (sect. 9), 
that the sensual appetites and passions, in which all mankind undoubtedly 
agree, are^ the only real .constituents of hiunan nature; and that beliefs 
in Morality, Deity, and a Future Life have been artificially produced, 
by custom and education. These, he alleges, are not found to be 
invariably the same in all nations and uges ; whereas, for a principle 
to be ' natural' to the human mind, it must appear in us originally, 
and be found always (sect. 14). What naturalness consists in, and 
by what marks it may be recognised, are, accordingly, discussed in the 
next place (sect. 14 16), Alciphron is obliged to allow that beliefs 
which fail to shew themselves, upon our first entrance into the world, 
and which .are not ^ developed in every human being, may, never- 
theless, be the constitution of human nature. He grants at last to 
Euphranor r that: the 'proper rule and measure of moral truths is their 
tendency to promote the general good of mankind; and that, since 
reasonable creatures were made for one another, 9 each should con- 
sider himself as part of a whole, to the common good of which he 
is bound to contribute, if he would really live 'according to nature/ 
The question to be discussed in the Dialogues that follow resolves 
itself, accordingly, into this : Have beliefs in Moral Order, Providence, 
and a Future Life, from which Free-thinkers release themselves, a ten- 
dency to promote the highest good of mankind are they in harmony 
with, and required for, the full satisfaction of man's Reason and Con- 
science ? 

The Second Dialogue is intende^ to refute Mandeville, whose Fable 
of the Eees, with its generalization of the ambiguous principle that ' pri- 
vate vices are public benefits/ and its satire upon man, was making some 
commotion at the time. In this Dialogue, Lysicles, the light-hearted 
worldling, is the prominent speaker on the free-thinking side, in defence 
of Mandeville. Granting the common principle in which the First Dia- 
logue ended, that the good of society is the test of right action and 
practical belief are not the vices of individuals, he asks, actually useful 
to the public ? Is not belief in God and a future life, and in morality, 
on the other hand, inconsistent with the general happiness, and, accord- 
ingly, to be rejected, on the principle of utility? In the discussion of 


this question, the dignity of human nature, the generic differences 
among the pleasures of which we are susceptible, and the case of those 
who have been able to compare in their own experience a variety of 
generically different pleasures are considered, as well as the social injury 
done by indulgence in sensual pleasures, which degrade the individual 
below his ideal. 

Ill the Third Dialogue, the more generous and enthusiastic Alciphron 
adopts the moral theory of Shaftesbury, unfolded in his Characteristics, 
compares conscience to tasVe, enlarges upon the abstract beauty of a 
virtue which is its own reward, and disparages belief in a future life, as 
a minister to selfishness and cowardly morality, through its pathological 
appeal to motives of hope and fear. Euphranor and Crito argue, on the 
other hand, that this enthusiastic morality is unsuited to the nature of 
man, which requires a more firm and awe-inspiring motive than romantic 
sentiment, and virtue being its own reward ; and that the higher springs 
of action need to be sustained by reverential faith in Divine moral 
government, and in the constantly operating Providence of the Supreme 
Spirit. The Third Dialogue thus introduces the connexion between 
Morality and Religion. 

A conclusion which affirms merely that religious belief is important for 
the good of society does not satisfy the lover of truth. He still asks for 
evidence that the Object of religious reverence and trust really exists 
that 'God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek 
Him/ The metaphysical foundation and nature of theological belief 
is, accordingly, discussed in the Fourth Dialogue in some respects 
the most remarkable of the seven, Here Euphranor and Crito as it were 
project Berkeley's own metaphysical philosophy into the great religious 
controversy of that day and of all days arguing (sect. 815) that, 
as the visible world has no absolute existence, being merely the sensible 
expression of Supreme Intelligence and Will, each man has actually the 
same kind of evidence that God exists and in a much higher degree 
which he has that a fellow-man exists when he hears him speak. That 
the visible world is a Divine Language, which contains all the signs of a 
perpetually present Divine Speaker that human words do of a human 
speaker when one is actually addressing us, is the great truth of the 
Berkeleian philosophy. And our knowledge of this Divine Speaker, 
Crito maintains (sect. 19 21), is neither negative nor analogical; for 
negative and analogical knowledge is, he holds, really no knowledge at 
all in any practical way. The reasoning in this part of the Dialogue 
is in opposition to theories like those of Archbishop King, in his Ser- 
mon on Predestination (1709), and of Bishop Brown, in his Answer to 


Toland (1699), his Procedure, Extent, and Limits of Human Understand- 
ing (1728), and his Analogy (ifss) 8 . We know God positively, Crito 
concludes, as supreme and perfect Spirit, which is at once our highest, 
and a legitimate conception of the Divine Being. 

The three remaining Dialogues are a vindication of religious morality 
in its? Christian form. In the Fifth Dialogue, Christianity is represented 
as the most useful and ennobling form of religious worship, with social 
and civilizing influences unknown to the ancient Greek and Roman 
religions; in the Sixth, as sustained by evidences in history, as well as 
in its own spiritual elements, which afford a probability sufficient to 
justify in reason a practical faith in its Divinity ; and, in the Seventh, 
as neither logically nor metaphysically incredible, on account of Tthe 
mysteries of Grace, Incarnation, Trinity, and the fact of Free Agency, 
which religious morality assumes all which, although mysterious, are 
not contradictory or absurd. In this last Dialogue, the Nominalism 
of Berkeley's theory of human knowledge is reproduced by Euphranor, 
and it is argued that propositions of great practical moment may be 
made up of words that are not suggestive of ideas, i. e. of mental 
representations of particular things. 

That Christian thought is true free-thought, and a correspond- 
ing religious life the one most fitted to promote the well-being of 
mankind, are thus main lessons of the Minute Philosopher, which de- 
fends, in the mode characteristic of its author's mind and philosophy, 
the position adopted by Coleridge in a different epoch of thought 
that Christian Faith is the perfection of human Reason. Berkeley's 
Alciphron may rank with the Analogy of Butler, and the Pensfes of 
Pascal, as the remarkable works of the last and preceding century in 
religious philosophy. 

The Minute Philosopher was the object of various attacks soon after 
its appearance. 

The Fourth Dialogue, along with the New Theory of Vision which 
it involves, occasioned the Letter from an Anonymous Writer, in the 
Daily Post Boy, to which Berkeley's Vindication and Explanation of that 
Theory is a reply. 

The attack upon the Fable of the Bees, in the Second Dialogue, called 
out Mandeville, whose Letter to Dion, occasioned by his book called 

The last of these works of Brown was the two earlier ones. Archbishop King's 
published after the appearance of Alcipbron. analogical doctrine is adversely criticised 
A doctrine of analogy, however, pervades by Brown. 



Alciphron (1732), complains of misrepresentation, and takes refuge 
under cover of its own ambiguous principles 6 . 

A flippant attack upon the whole performance followed, in a tract 
entitled Remarks on the Minute Philosopher : 'in a Letter from a Country 
Clergyman to\his Friend in London. The so-called 'Country Clergy- 
man' was John, Lord Hervey, the ' Spprus' of 'Pope, and a familiar 
figure at the Court of Queen Caroline, the inner life of which has 
been disclosed in his curious and sagacious memoirs. Hervey objects 
to the employment of reasoning, especially metaphysical reasoning, in 
matters of faith, denies that Atheism is a characteristic of the modern 
Free-thinker, charges Berkeley with misrepresenting the Fable of the 
'Be?*, and himself ignorantfy misrepresents and ridicules the theory of 
Visual Language 7 . 7 

Among other tracts due to the publication of Alciphron^ there is a 

6 Mandeville's notorious Fable of the 
Bees appeared in 1714, in the form of a 
short apologue in verse, called The Grum- 
bling Hive : or Knaves turned honest. To 
these verses the author added long notes 
and illustrations under the name of * Re- 
marks.' He afterwards composed six dia- 
logues in defence of his doctrine, and 
published the whole, in 1728, as a prose 
treatise in two volumes, entitled The Fable 
of the Bees ; or Private Vices Public Bene- 
fits. One professed , purpose of the book 
is to shew that the so-called vices of 
selfishness, luxury, and lust, indulged to a 
certain extent, are the foundation of social 
prosperity that the welfare of society is 
dependent on the immorality of its indi- 
vidual members. This the author tries to 
prove, by tracing to their consequences the 
vicious actions whose utility he vindicates. 
The original work excited great attention, 
and was presented as a nuisance by the 
grand jury of Middlesex, in 1723. The 
Presentment states that books and pam- 
phlets are published almost every week 
against religion and morality, which affirm 
fate, deny a Divine Providence, and recom- 
mend luxury, avarice, pride, and all kinds 
of vices, as being necessary to the public 
welfare. Mandeville, in his Letter to Dion, 
explains that he means merely, that vice 
often proves advantageous to the worldly 
interest of those who are guilty of it, and 
to the societies of which they are members. 
He died in 1733. Tennemann says that 
Berkeley's* Alcipbron is chiefly directed 
against Mandeville and Bishop Brown, while 
,in fact only one of the Seven Dialogues is 
devoted to the moral heresies of the former, 

and a fe\v sections in another to the analo- 
gical theory of the latter. 

7 The Country Clergyman sums up his 
Remarks as follows : 

' First, That, as the Minute Philosopher 
professes writing to the Free-thinkers of the 
present age, he should have left Atheism 
quite out of the question, because it is not 
the error of these times. 

* Secondly, That if it were, he is likelier 
(by telling people bis are the best arguments 
to prove a God) to make than to convert 

* Thirdly, That metaphysics are an im- 
proper method to take for the support of 
Christianity; because, whatever is designed 
for common use should be levelled to com- 
mon apprehension, and whatever is to be 
universally received ought to be universally 

' Fourthly, That as metaphysics are gene- 
rally the most obscure of all writings, so his 
writings are the most obscure of all meta- 

* And Lastly, That, by his manner of 
handling every proposition, he always does 
one or other of these three things : he 
either begs the question, by some arbitrary 
decision at the end of the dispute, which he 
had just as good a right to make at the 
beginning of it (as in the i6th section of 
the First Dialogue, and the 2nd of the 
Fifth) ; or he puzzles and perplexes the 
question so much that nobody can pick out 
any decision at all (as in his Visual Lan- 
guage); or else he inadvertently gives up 
the question, by some slip in the course of 
reasoning, which he can never afterwards 



curious one dated Near Inverness, August 1732.' It is in the form of 
a letter to a friend in Edinburgh, and is entitled A Vindication of the 
Reverend D By from the scandalous imputation of being the author 
of a late book, entitled ' Alciphron, or, the Minute Philosopher' To the 
Vindication are subjoined * the predictions 8 of the late E^rl of Shaftes- 
bury concerning the book, together with an Appendix, and 'an 
Advertisement V 

The most important parts of Alciphron are so connected with the 
metaphysical philosophy of Berkeley, and th'at philosophy was so ill 
understood by his contemporaries, that the work obtained imperfect 
appreciation in the current criticisms, favourable or adverse, to which 
it gave rise about the time it was publisAed. Familiarity with the 
author's theory of human knowledge is necessary for the intelligent 
study of the more original Dialogues in this pious, ingenious, and 
essentially practical performance. 

A. C. F. 

8 For the 'predictions/ see Shaftesbury's 
Characteristics, vol. III. pp. 291 296 (the 
references are to the fifth edition, 1732), 
where the author gives reasons ' for avoid- 
ing the direct way of Dialogue; which 
at present lies so low, and is used only 
now and then, in our party pamphlets, or 
new-fangled theological Essays.' ' For of 
late,' he goes on to say, ' the manner (Dia- 
logue) has been introduced into Church- 
controversy, with an attempt of raillery and 
humour, as a more successful method of 
dealing with heresy and infidelity. The 
burlesque-divinity grows mightily in vogue. 
And the cried-up answers to heterodox 

discourses are generally such as are written 
in drollery, or with resemblance of the 
facetious and humorous language of conver- 
sation' and so on, in what follows. See 
also vol. I. pp. 65 67, and vol. III. p. 6. 
Warton, by the way, records the remark of 
Dr. Hurd, that there were only three Dia- 
logues in English that deserved applause 
the Moralists of Shaftesbury ; Mr. Addison's 
Treatise on Medals; and the Minute Philo- 
sopher of Berkeley. See Essay on the Genius 
and Writings of Pope. 

The * Advertisement ' is a squib occa- 
sioned by Dial. V. sect. 22. 




' They have forsaken me the Fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken 
cisterns, that can hold no water.' JEREMIAH ii. 13. 

' Sin mortuus, ut quidam Minuti Philosophi censent, nihil sentiam, non vereor ne hunc 
errorem meum mortui philosophi irrideant.' CICERO. 



THE Author's design being to consider the Free-thinker in the various 
lights of atheist, libertine, enthusiast, scc^ner, critic, metaphysician^ 
fatalist, and sceptic, it must not therefore be imagined that every fine 
of these characters agrees with every individual Free-thinker ; no more 
being implied than that each part agrees with some or other of the 
sect. There may, possibly,, be a reader who shall think the character 
of atheist agrees with none ; but though it hath been often said there 
is no such thing as a speculative atheist, yet we must allow there are 
several atheists who pretend to speculation. This the Author knows 
to be true; and is well assured that one of the most noted writers 
against Christianity in our times declared he had found out a demon- 
stration against the being of a God 1 . And he doubts not, whoever 
will be at the pains to inform himself, by a general conversation, as 
well as books, of the principles and tenets of our modern Free-thinkers, 
will see too much cause to be persuaded that nothing in the ensuing 
characters is beyond the life 2 . 

1 Anthony Collins is apparently the The question raised by Collins was the 

writer referred to. See ' Editor's Preface,' occasion of various tracts, in defence and 

p. 5. Cf. Alciphron, Dial. I. sect. 12 ; IV. attack, about the time of the publication of 

1 6, &c. Collins's Philosophical Inquiry con- Alcipbron, in particular John Jackson, 

cerning Human Liberty was first pub- Rector of Rossington, and Dr. Gretton, Rector 

lished in 1715. The second edition ap- of Springfield, Essex, replied, in 1730, to 

peared in 1717, in which year Dr. Samuel the Dissertation of A. C., published in the 

Clarke published his Remarks upon the preceding year. The controversy between 

' Philosophical Inquiry concerning Human Clarke and Collins is alluded to in (Corry's ?) 

Liberty* In 1729, shortly after Clarke's Reflections upon Liberty and Necessity, 

death, a reply to the Remarks, attributed London, 1761, where it is said (p. 7) 

to Collins, appeared, in the form of a Dis- that the threatened interposition of the 

sertation on Liberty and Necessity: wherein magistrates hindered the latter from de- 

tbe powers of ideas, from their first entrance fending the Philosophical Inquiry. The 

into the soul, until their production of action, English literature of this controversy about 

is delineated; with some Remarks upon the moral agency, in the early part of last cen- 

late Reverend Dr. Clarke's reasoning on this tury, is .copious and curious, as also in the 

point. By A. C., Esq r . The reply was preceding century, when it engaged Hobbes, 

unknown to Mr. Stewart (Dissertation, art. Bramhall, and Cudworth. 
Collins) and others. Collins died in 1729. 2 Cf. Theory of Vision Vindicated and 

The third edition of his Philosophical Inquiry Explained, sect. 5, and note by the Editor, 
appeared in 1735. 


[ 8 As the author hath not confined himself to write against%ooks 
alone, so he thinks it necessary to make this declaration. It must not, 
therefore, be thought that authors are misrepresented, ff every notion 
of Alciphron or Lysicles is not found precisely in them. A gentleman 
in private conference, may be supposed to speak plainer than others 
write, to improve on their hints, and draw conclusions from their 

Whatever they pretend, it is the author's opinion that all those who 
write either explicitly or 'oy insinuation, against the dignity, freedom, 
and immortality of the Human Soul, may so far forth be justly said 
to unhinge the Principles of Morality, and destroy the means of making 
m<*n reasonably virtuous. Which is to be apprehended from that quarter 
against the interests of virtue. Whether the apprehension of a certain 
admired writer 4 , that the cause of virtue is likely to suffer less from 
its witty antagonists than from its tender nurses, who are apt to overlay 
it, and kill it with excess of care and cheilshing, and make it a mer- 
cenary thing, by talking so much of its reward whether, I say, this 
apprehension be so well founded, the reader must determine.] 

As for the Treatise concerning Vision, why the Author annexed it 
to the ' Minute Philosopher ' will appear upon perusal of the Fourth 

8 This and the next paragraph were 4 [Essay on the Freedom of Wit and 
added in the second edition, but omitted in Humour, part II. sect. 3.] AUTHOR. The 
the posthumous editions. allusion is, of course, to Shaftesbury. 



1. Introduction. 

2. Aim and endeavours of free-thinkers. 

3. Opposed by the clergy. 

4. Liberty of free-thinking. 

5. Farther account of the views of free-thinkers. 

6. The progress of a free-thinker towards atheism. 

7. Joint imposture of the priest and magistrate. 

8. The free-thinker's method in making converts and discoveries. 

9. The atheist alone free. His sense of natural good and%vil. 

10. Modern free-thinkers more properly named minute plylosophers. 

11. Minute philosophers, what sort of men, and how educated. 

12. Their numbers, progress, and tenets. 

13. Compared with other philosophers. 

14. What things and notions to be esteemed natural. 

15. Truth the same, notwithstanding diversity of opinions. 

1 6. Rule and measure of moral truths. 


1. Vulgar error That vice is hurtful. 

2. The benefit of drunkenness, gaming, and whoring. 

3. Prejudice against vice wearing off. 

4. Its usefulness illustrated in the instances of Callicles and Telesilla. 

5. The reasoning of Lysicles in behalf of vice examined. 

6. Wrong to punish actions, when the doctrines whence they flow are 


7. Hazardous experiment of the minute philosophers. 

8. Their doctrine of circulation and revolution. 
y . Their sense of a reformation. 



10. Riches alone not the public weal. 

11. Authority of minute philosophers: their prejudice against religion. 

12. Effects of luxury: virtue, whether notional? 

13. Pleasure of sense. 

14. What sOrt of pleasure most natural to man. 

15. Dignity of human nature. 

1 6. Pleasure mistaken. 

17. Amusements, misery, and cowardice of minute philosophers. 

1 8. Rakes cannot reckon. 

19. Abilities and success of minute philosophers. 

20. Happy eifects of the minute philosophy in particular instances. 

2 1 . Their free notions about government. 

22. England the proper soil for minute philosophy. 

23. The policy and address of its professors. 

24. Merit of minute philosophers towards the public. 

25. Their notions and character. 

26. Their tendency towards popery and slavery. 


1. Alciphron's account of honour. 

2. Character and conduct of men of honour. 

3. Sense of moral beauty. 

4. The honestum or TO Ka\bv of the ancients. 

5. Taste for moral beauty, whether a sure guide or rule. 

6. Minute philosophers ravished with the abstract beauty of virtue. 

7. Their virtue alone disinterested and heroic. 

8. Beauty of sensible objects, what, and how perceived. 

9. The idea of beauty explained by painting and architecture. 

10. Beauty of the moral system, wherein it consists. 

11. It supposeth a Providence. 

12. Influence of TO Ka\6v and TO nptTrov. 

13. Enthusiasm of Cratylus compared with the sentiments of Aristotle. 

14. Compared with the Stoical principles. 

1 5. Minute philosophers, their talent for raillery and ridicule. 

1 6. The wisdom of those who make virtue alone its own reward. 


1. Prejudices concerning a Deity. 

2. Rules <!aid down by Alciphron to be observed in proving a God. 

3. What sort of proof he expects. 

4. Whence we collect the being of other thinking individuals. 

5. The same method ft fortiori proves the being of God. 


6. Alciphron's second thoughts on this point". 

7. God speaks to men. 

8. How distance is perceived by sight. 

9. The proper objects of sight at no distance. 

10. Lights, shades, ana colours variously combined form a language. 

11. The signification of this language learned by experience. 

12. God explaineth Himself to the eyes of men by the arbitrary use of sensible 

signs. , 

13. The prejudice and two-fold aspect of a minute philosopher. 

14. God present to mankind, informs, admonishes, and directs them in a sen- 

sible manner. 

15. Admirable nature and use of this Visual Laiiguage. 

1 6. Minute philosophers content to admit a God in certain senses. 

17. Opinion of some who hold that knowledge and wisdom are not properly 

in God. 

1 8. Dangerous tendency of this notion. 

19. Its original. 

20. The sense of schoolmen upon it. 

21. Scholastic use of the terms Analogy and Analogical explained: analogical 

perfections of God misunderstood. 

22. God intelligent, wise, and good in the proper sense of the words. 

23. Objection from moral evil considered. 

24. Men argue from their own defects against a Deity. 

25. Religious worship reasonable and expedient. 


1. Minute philosophers join in the cry, and follow the scent of others. 

2. Worship prescribed by the Christian religion suitable to God and man. 

3. Power and influence of the Druids. 

4. Excellency and usefulness of the Christian religion. 

5. It ennobles mankind, and makes them happy. 

6. Religion neither bigotry nor superstition. 

7. Physicians and physic for the soul. 

8. Character of the Clecgy. 

9. Natural religion and human reason not to be disparaged. 

10. Tendency and use of the Gentile religion. 

11. Good effects of Christianity, 

12. Englishmen compared with ancient Greeks and Romans. 

13. The modern practice of duelling. 

14. Character of the old Romans, how to be formed. 

15. Genuine fruits of the Gospel. 

iC. Wars and factions not an effect of the Christian religion. 

C 2 


17. Civil rage and massacres in Greece and Rome. 

1 8. Virtue of ancient Greeks. 

19. Quarrels of polemical divines. 

20. Tyranny, usurpation, sophistry of ecclesiastics.- 

2 1 . The Universities censured. 

22. pivine writings of a certain modern critic. 

23. Learning the effect of religion. 

24. Barbarism of the schools. 

25. Restoration of learning and polite arts, to whom owing. 

26. Prejudice and ingratitude of minute philosophers. 

27. Their pretensions and conduct inconsistent. 

28. Men and brutes compared with respect to religion. 

29. Christianity the only meanj to establish natural religion. 

30. Free-thinkers mistake their talents ; have a strong imagination. 

31. Tithes and church-lands. 

32. Men distinguished from human creatures. 

33. Distribution of mankind into birds, beasts, and fishes. 

34. Plea for reason allowed, but unfairners taxed. 

35. Freedom a blessing or a curse as it is used. 

36. Priestcraft not the reigning evil. 


1. Points agreed.' 

2. Sundry pretences to revelation. 

3. Uncertainty of tradition. 

4. Object and ground of faith. 

5. Some books disputed, others evidently spurious. 

6. Style and composition of Holy Scripture. 

7. Difficulties occurring therein. 

8. Obscurity not always a defect. 

9. Inspiration neither impossible nor absurd. 

10. Objections from the form and matter of Divine revelation considered. 

11. Infidelity an effect of narrowness and prejudice. 

12. Articles of Christian faith not unreasonable. 

13. Guilt the natural parent of fear. 

14. Things unknown, reduced to the standard of what men know. 

15. Prejudices against the Incarnation of the Son of God. 

16. Ignorance of the Divine (Economy, a source of difficulties. 

17. Wisdom of God, foolishness to man. 

1 8. Reason, no blind guide. 

19. Usefulness of Divine revelation. 

20. Prophecies, whence obscure. 

21. Eastern accounts of time older than the Mosaic. 

22. The humour of ^Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and other nations ex- 

tending their antiquity beyond truth accounted for. 


23. Reasons confirming the Mosaic account. 

24. Profane historians inconsistent. 

25. Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian. 

26. The testimony of Josephus considered. 

27. Attestation of Jews and Gentiles to Christianity. 

28. Forgeries and heresies. 

29. Judgment and attention of minute philosophers. 

30. Faith and miracles. 

31. Probable arguments a sufficient ground of faith. 

32. The Christian religion able to stand the test of rational inquiry. 


1 . Christian faith impossible. 

2. Words stand for ideas. 

3. No knowledge or faith without ideas. 

4. Grace, no idea of it. 

5. Abstract ideas what and how made, 

6. Abstract general ideas impossible. 

7. In what sense there may be general ideas. 

8. Suggesting ideas not the only use of words. 

9. Force as difficult to form an idea of as grace. 

10. Notwithstanding which useful propositions may be formed concerning it. 

11. Belief of the Trinity and other mysteries not absurd. 

12. Mistakes about faith an occasion of profane raillery. 

13. Faith, its true nature and effects. 

14. Illustrated by science. 

15. By arithmetic in particular. 

1 6. Sciences conversant about signs. 

17. The true end of speech, reason, science, and faith. 

1 8. Metaphysical objections as strong against human sciences as articles of 


19. No religion, because no human liberty. 

20. Farther proof against human liberty. 

21. Fatalism a consequence of erroneous suppositions, 

22. Man an accountable agent. 

23. Inconsistency, singularity, and credulity of minute philosophers. 

24. Untrodden paths and new light of the minute philosophers. 

25. Sophistry of the minute philosophers. 

26. Minute philosophers ambiguous, eenigmatical, unfathomable. 


27. Scepticism of the minute philosophers. 

28. How a sceptic ought to behave. 

29. Minute philosophers why difficult to convince. 

30. Thinking no 1 the epidemical evil of these times. 

31. Infidelity jnot an effect of reason or thought its true motives assigned. 

32. Variety of opinions about religion, effects thereof. 

33. Method for proceeding with minute philosophers. 

34. Want of thought and want of education defects of the present age. 





I. Introduction. 2. Aim and endeavours of free-thinkers. 3. Opposed by the clergy* 
4. Liberty of free-thinking. 5. Farther account of the views of free-thinkers. 6. The 
progress of a free-thinker towards atheism. 7. Joint imposture of the priest and magis- 
trate. 8. The free-thinker's method in making converts and discoveries. 9. The atheist 
alone free. His sense of natural good and evil. 10. Modern free-thinkers more properly 
named minute philosophers. II. Minute philosophers, what sort of men, and how 
educated. 12. Their numbers, progress, and tenets. 13. Compared with other philo- 
sophers. 14. What things and notions to be esteemed natural. 15. Truth the same, 
notwithstanding diversity of opinion. 16. Rule and measure of moral truths. 

i. I FLATTERED myself, Theages, that before this time I 
might have been able to have sent you an agreeable account of the 
success of the affair which brought me into this remote corner of 
the country. But, instead of this, I should now give you the detail 
of its miscarriage, if I did not rather choose to entertain you with 
some amusing incidents, which have helped to make me easy 
under a circumstance I could neither obviate nor foresee. Events 
are not in our power; but it always is, to make a good use even 
of the very worst. And, I must needs own, the course and event 
of this affair gave opportunity for reflections that make me some 
amends for a great loss of time, pains, and expense. A life of 
action, which takes its issue from the counsels, passions, and 

24 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

views of other men, if it doth not draw a man to imitate, will at 
least teach him to observe. And a mind at liberty to jeflect on its 
own observations, if it produce nothing useful to the world, seldom 
fails of entertainment to itself. For several months past, I have 
enjoyed such liberty and leisure in this distant retreat, far beyond 
the verge of that great whirlpool of business, faction, and pleasure, 
which is called the world. And a retreat in itself agreeable, after 
a long scene of trouble ard disquiet, was made much more so by 
the conversation and good qualities of my host, Euphranor, who 
unites in his own person the philosopher and the farmer, two 
characters not so inconsistent in nature as by custom they seem to be. 

Euphranor, from the time he left the university, hath lived in 
this small town, where he is possessed of a convenient house with 
a hundred acres of land adjoining to it ; which, being improved by 
his own labour, yield him a plentiful subsistence. He hath a good 
collection, chiefly of old books, left him by a clergyman his uncle, 
under whose care he was brought up. And the business of his 
farm doth not hinder him from making good use of it. He hath 
read much, and thought more; his health and strength of body 
enabling him the better to bear fatigue of mind. He is of opinion 
that he could not carry on his studies with more advantage in the 
closet than the field, where his mind is seldom idle while he prunes 
the trees, follows the plough, or looks after his flocks. 

In the house of this honest friend I became acquainted with 
Crito, a neighbouring gentleman of distinguished merit and estate, 
who lives in great friendship with Euphranor. 

Last summer, Crito, whose parish-church is in our town, dining 
on a Sunday at Euphranor's, I happened to inquire after his guests, 
whom we had seen at church with him the Sunday before. They 
are both well, said Crito, but, having once occasionally conformed, 
to see what sort of assembly our parish could afford, they had no 
further curiosity to gratify at church, and so chose to stay at 
home. How, said Euphranor, are they then dissenters? No, 
replied Crito, they are free-thinkers. Euphranor, who had never 
met with any of this species or sect of men, and but little of 
their writings, shewed a great desire to know their principles or 
system. That is more, said Crito, than I will undertake to tell 
you. Their writers are of different opinions. Some go farther, 
and explain themselves more freely than others. But the current 

The First Dialogue. 25 

general notions of the sect are best learned from conversation 
with those who profess themselves of it. Your curiosity may now 
be satisfied, if you and Dion * would spend a week at my house 
with these gentlemen, who seem very ready to declare and pro- 
pagate their opinion?. Alciphron is above forty, and no stranger 
either to men or books. I knew him first at the Temple, which, 
upon an estate's falling to him, he quitted, to travel through the 
polite parts of Europe. Since his return he hath lived in the 
amusements of the town, which, being grown stale and tasteless 
to his palate, have flung him into a sort of splenetic indolence. 
The young gentleman, Lysicles, is a neav kinsman of mine, one 
of lively parts and a general insight into letters, who, after 
having passed the forms of education, and seen a little of the 
world, fell into an intimacy with men of pleasure and free- 
thinkers, I am afraid much to tfye damage of his constitution and 
his fortune. But what I most regret is the corruption of his mind, 
by a set of pernicious principles, which, having been observed to 
survive the passions of youth, forestall even the remote hopes of 
amendment. They are both men of fashion, and would be agree- 
able enough, if they did not fancy themselves free-thinkers. But 
this, to speak the truth, has given them a certain air and manner, 
which a little too visibly declare they think themselves wiser than 
the rest of the world. I should therefore be not at all displeased if 
my guests met with their match, where they least expected it in 
a country farmer. I shall not, replied Euphranor, pretend to any 
more than barely to inform myself of their principles and opinions. 
For this end I propose to-morrow to set a week's task to my 
labourers, and accept your invitation, if Dion thinks good. To 
which I gave consent. Meanwhile, said Crito, I shall prepare my 
guests, and let them know that an honest neighbour hath a mind 
to discourse with them on the subject of their free-thinking. And, 
if I am not much mistaken, they will please themselves with the 
prospect of leaving a convert behind them, even in a country village. 
Next morning Euphranor rose early, and spent the forenoon 
in ordering his affairs. After dinner we took our walk to 
Crito's, which lay through half a dozen pleasant fields planted 
round with plane-trees, that are very common in this part of the 

1 See Letter to Dion, occasioned by his sopber.' By the Author of the * Fable of 
book called 'Alcipbron, or the Minute Pbilo- the Bees.' London, 1 732. 

26 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

country. We walked under the delicious shade of these trees for 
about an hour before we came to Crito's house, which stands in 
the middle of a small park, beautified with two fine groves of oak 
and walnut, and a winding stream of sweet and clear water. We 
me,t a servant at the door with a small basket of fruit, which he 
was carrying into a grove, where he said his master was with the 
two strangers. We found them all three sitting under a shade. 
And after the usual fams at first meeting, Euphranor and I sat 
down by them. 

Our conversation began upon the beauty of this rural scene, 
the fine season of the year, and some late improvements which 
had been made in the adjacent country by new methods of 
agriculture. Whence Alciphron took occasion to observe, that 
the most valuable improvements came latest. I should have 
small temptation, said he, to live where men have neither 
polished manners, nor improved minds, though the face of the 
country were ever so well improved. But I have long observed 
that there is a gradual progress in human affairs. The first care of 
mankind is to supply the cravings of nature; in the next place 
they study the conveniences and comforts of life. But the sub- 
duing prejudices, and acquiring true knowledge, that Herculean 
labour, is the last, being what demands the most perfect abilities, 
and to which all other advantages are preparative. Right, said 
Euphranor, Alciphron hath touched our true defect. It was always 
my opinion that as soon as we had provided subsistence for the 
body our next care should be to improve the mind. But the 
desire of wealth steps between, and engrosseth men's thoughts. 

2. Alciphron. Thought is that which we are told distinguished 
man from beast ; and freedom of thought makes as great a differ- 
ence between man and man. It is to the noble assertors of this 
privilege and perfection of human kind, the free-thinkers I mean, 
who have sprung up and multiplied of late years 2 , that we are 
indebted for all those important discoveries, that ocean of light, 
which hath broke in and made its way, in spite of slavery and 

3 See Lechler's Geschichte des Engliscben rise and growth of a sect called Free- 
Deistnus, pp. 180 342; also Collins* Dis- thinkers (1713). 
course of Free-thinking, occasioned by the 

The First Dialogue. 27 

Euphranor, who is a sincere enemy to both, testified a great 
esteem for those worthies who had preserved their country 
from being ruined by them, having spread so much light and 
knowledge over the land. He added, that he liked tke name 
and character of a free-thinker : but, in his sense of the wprd, 
every honest inquirer after truth in any age or country was 
entitled to it. He therefore desired to know what this sect was 
that Alciphron had spoken of as newly 'sprung up ; what were 
their tenets; what were their discoveries; and wherein they 
employed themselves for the benefit of mankind ? Of all which, 
he should think himself obliged, if AlcipHron would inform him. 

That I shall very easily, replied Alciphron, for I profess myself 
one of the number, and my most intimate friends are some of 
the most considerable among them. 

And, perceiving that Euphranor heard him with respect, he 
proceeded very fluently. You must know, said he, that the mind 
of man may be fitly compared to a piece of land. What stubbing, 
ploughing, digging, and harrowing are to the one, that thinking, 
reflecting, examining are to the other. Each hath its proper 
culture ; and, as land that is suffered to lie waste and wild for 
a long tract of time will be overspread with brush-wood, brambles, 
thorns, and such vegetables which have neither use nor beauty; 
even so there will not fail to sprout up in a neglected uncul- 
tivated mind a great number of prejudices and absurd opinions, 
which owe their origin partly to the soil itself, the passions and 
imperfections of the mind of man, and partly to those seeds which 
chance to be scattered in it by every wind of doctrine, which the 
cunning of statesmen, the singularity of pedants, the superstition 
of fools, or the imposture of priests shall raise. Represent to 
yourself the mind of man, or human nature in general, that for 
so many ages had lain obnoxious to the frauds of designing and 
the follies of weak men ; how it must be overrun with prejudices 
and errors, what firm and deep roots they must have taken, and 
consequently how difficult a task it must be to extirpate them! 
And yet this work, no less difficult than glorious, is the employ- 
ment of the modern free-thinkers. Alciphron having said this 
made a pause, and looked round on the company. 

Truly, said I, a very laudable undertaking ! 

We think, said Euphranor, that it is praiseworthy to clear and 

28 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

subdue the earth, to tame brute animals, to fashion the outsides 
of men, provide sustenance for their bodies, and cure their 
maladies. But what is all this in comparison of that most 
excellent and useful undertaking to free mankind from their 
errors, and to improve and adorn their miiids. For things of 
less merit towards the world altars have been raised, and tem- 
ples built, in ancient times. 

Too many in our dayj, replied Alciphron, are such fools as not 
to know their best benefactors from their worst enemies. They 
have a blind respect for those who enslave them, and look upon 
their deliverers as a dangerous sort of men that would undermine 
received principles and opinions. 

Euphranor. It were a great pity such worthy ingenious men 
should meet with any discouragement. For my part, I should think 
a man who spent his time in such a painful, impartial search after 
truth a better friend to mankind than the greatest statesman or 
hero the advantage of whose labours is confined to a little part of 
the world and a short space of time, whereas a ray of truth may 
enlighten the whole world and extend to future ages. 

Ale. It will be some time I fear before the common herd think 
as you do. But the better sort, the men of parts and polite educa- 
tion, pay a due regard to the patrons of light and truth. 

3. Euph. The clergy, no doubt, are on all occasions ready to 
forward and applaud your worthy endeavours. 

Upon hearing this Lysicles could hardly refrain from laughing. 
And Alciphron with an air of pity told Euphranor that he per- 
ceived he was unacquainted with the real character of those men. 
For, saith he, you must know that of all men living they are 
our greatest enemies. If it were possible, they would extinguish 
the very light of nature, turn the world into a dungeon, and 
keep mankind for ever in chains and darkness. 

Euph. I never imagined anything like this of our Protestant 
clergy, particularly those of the Established Church, whom, if 
I may be allowed to judge by what I have seen of them and their 
writings, I should have thought lovers of learning and useful 

Ale. Take my word for it, 'priests of all religions are the same : 
wherever there are priests there will be priestcraft ; and wherever 

The First Dialogue. 29 

there is priestcraft there will be a persecuting spirit, which they 
never fail to exert to the utmost of their power against all those 
who have the courage to think for themselves, and will not submit 
to be hoodwinked and manacled by. their reverend leaders. Those 
great masters of pedantry and jargon have coined several systejns, 
which are all equally true, and of equal importance to the world. 
The contending sects are each alike fond of their own, and alike 
prone to discharge their fury upon all \?ho dissent from them. 
Cruelty and ambition being the darling vices of priests and 
churchmen all the world over, they endeavour in all countries to 
get an ascendant over the rest of mankind ; and the magistrate,* 
having a joint interest with the priest in subduing, amusing, 
and scaring the people, too often lends a hand to the hierarchy, 
who never think their authority and possessions secure, so long 
as those who differ from them jn opinion are allowed to partake 
even in the common rights belonging to their birth or species. 
To represent the matter in a true light, figure to yourselves a 
monster or spectre made up of superstition and enthusiasm, the 
joint issue of statecraft and priestcraft, rattling chains in one 
hand, and with the other brandishing a flaming sword over the 
land, and menacing destruction to all who shall dare to follow 
the dictates of Reason and Common Sense. Do but consider this, 
and then say if there was not danger as well as difficulty in our 
undertaking. Yet, such is the generous ardour that truth inspires, 
our free-thinkers are neither overcome by the one nor daunted by 
the other. In spite of both we have already made so many prose- 
lytes among the better sort, and their numbers increase so fast, 
that we hope we shall be able to carry all before us, beat down the 
bulwarks of all tyranny, secular or ecclesiastical, break the fetters 
and chains of our countrymen, and restore the original inherent 
rights, liberties, and prerogatives of mankind. 

Euphranor heard this discourse with his mouth open, and his 
eyes fixed upon Alciphron, who, having uttered it with no small 
emotion, stopped to draw breath and recover himself j but, finding 
that nobody made answer, he resumed the thread of his discourse, 
and, turning to Euphranor, spoke in a lower note what follows : 
The more innocent and honest a man is, the more liable is he 
to be imposed on by the specious pretences of other men. You 
have probably met with certain writings of our divines that treat 

3O Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

of grace, virtue, goodness, and such matters, fit to amuse and 
deceive a simple, honest mind. But, believe me when I tell you 
they are all at bottom (however they may gild their designs) 
united by qne common principle in the same interest. I will 
not deny there may be here and there a poor half-witted man 
that means no mischief; but this I will be bold to say, that all 
the men of sense among them are true at bottom to these three 
pursuits of ambition, avarice, and revenge. 

4. While Alciphron was speaking, a servant came to* tell him 
and Lysicles that some men who were going to London waited to 
receive their orders. Whereupon they both rose up, and went 
towards the house. They were no sooner gone but Euphranor, 
addressing himself to Crito, said, he believed that poor gentleman 
had been a great sufferer for his free-thinking; for that he seemed 
to express himself with the passion and resentment natural to men 
who have received very bad usage. 

I believe no such thing, answered Crito, but have often ob- 
served those of his sect run into two faults of conversation, 
declaiming and bantering, just as the tragic or the comic humour 
prevails. Sometimes they work themselves into high passions, 
and are frightened at spectres of their own raising. In those fits 
every country curate passes for an inquisitor. At other times they 
affect a sly facetious manner, making use of hints and allusions, 
expressing little, insinuating much, and upon the whole seeming 
to divert themselves with the subject and their adversaries. But, 
if you would know their opinions, you must mak them speak out 
and keep close to the point. Persecution for free-thinking is 
a topic they are apt to enlarge on, though without any just cause, 
every one being at full liberty to think what he pleases, there 
being no such thing in England that I know as persecution for 
opinion, sentiment, or thought. But in every country, I suppose, 
some care is taken to restrain petulant speech, and, whatever 
men's inward thoughts may be, to discourage an outward con- 
tempt of what the public esteemeth sacred 3 . Whether this care 
in England hath of late been so excessive as to distress the sub- 
ject of this once free and easy government, whether the free- 
thinkers can truly complain of any hardship upon the score of 

8 Cf. Berkeley's Discourse addressed to Magistrates and Men in Authority. 

The First Dialogue. 31 

conscience or opinion, you will better be able to judge, when you 
hear from themselves an account of the numbers, progress, and 
notions of their sect j which I doubt not they will communicate 
fully and freely, provided nobody present seem , shocked or 
offended : for in that case it is possible good manners may put 
them upon some reserve. 

Oh! said Euphranor, I am never angry with any man for his 
opinion : whether he be Jew, Turk, or Idolator, he may speak his 
mind freely to me without fear of offending. I should even be 
glad to hear what he hath to say, provided he saith it in an inge- 
nuous candid manner. Whoever digs in foe mine of truth I look 
on as my fellow- labourer ; but if, while I am taking true pains, 
he diverts himself with teasing me, and flinging dust in mine 
eyes, I shall soon be tired of him. 

5. In the meantime, Alciphron and Lysicles, having despatched 
what they went about, returned to us. Lysicles sat down where he 
had been before. But Alciphron stood over against us, with his 
arms folded across, and his head reclined on the left shoulder, in 
the posture of a man meditating. We sat silent, not to disturb his 
thoughts ; and after two or three minutes he uttered these words 
Oh truth ! oh liberty ! After which he remained musing as before. 

Upon this Euphranor took the freedom to interrupt him. 
Alciphron, said he, it is not fair to spend your time in soliloquies. 
The conversation of learned and knowing men is rarely to be 
met with in this corner, and the opportunity you have put into 
my hands I value too much not to make the best use of it. 

Ale. Are you then in earnest a votary of truth, and is it 
possible you should bear the liberty of a fair inquiry ? 

Euph. It is what I desire of all things. 

Ale. What ! upon every subject ? upon the notions you first 
sucked in with your milk, and which have been ever since nursed 
by parents, pastors, tutors, religious assemblies, books of devotion, 
and such methods of prepossessing men's minds ? 

Euph. I love information upon all subjects that come in my 
way, and especially upon those that are most important. 

Ale. If then you are in earnest, hold fair and stand firm, while 
I probe your prejudices and extirpate your principles. 

Dum veteres avias tibi de pulmone revello. 

32 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Having said thus, Alciphron knit his brows and made a short 
pause, after which he proceeded in the following manner : 

If we are at the pains to dive and penetrate into the bottom of 
things, and Analyse opinions into their first principles, we shall find 
that those opinions which are thought of greatest consequence have 
the slightest original, being derived either from the casual customs 
of the country where we live, or from early instruction instilled 
into our tender minds, before we are able to discern between right 
and wrong, true and false. The vulgar (by whom I understand 
all those who do not make a free use of their reason) are apt to 
take these prejudices for things sacred and unquestionable, be- 
lieving them to be imprinted on the hearts of men by God Himself, 
or conveyed by revelation from heaven, or to carry with them so 
great light and evidence as must force an assent without any 
inquiry or examination. Thus the shallow vulgar have their heads 
furnished with sundry conceits, principles, and doctrines, religious, 
moral, and political, all which they maintain with a fceal propor- 
tionable to their want of reason. On the other hand, those who 
duly employ their faculties in the search of truth, take especial 
care to weed out of their minds, and extirpate all such notions or 
prejudices as were planted in them before they arrived at the free 
and entire use of reason. This difficult task hath been successfully 
performed by our modern free-thinkers, who have not only dis- 
sected with great sagacity the received systems, and traced every 
established prejudice to the fountain-head, the true and genuine 
motives of assent : but also, having been able to embrace in one 
comprehensive view the several parts and ages of the world, they 
observed a wonderful variety of customs and rites, of institutions 
religious and civil, of notions and opinions very unlike, and 
even contrary one to another a certain sign they cannot all be 
true. And yet they are all maintained by their several partisans 
with the same positive air and warm zeal ; and, if examined, will 
be found to bottom on one and the same foundation, the strength 
of prejudice. By the help of these remarks and discoveries, they 
have broke through the bands of popular custom, and, having 
freed themselves from imposture, do now generously lend a hand 
to their fellow-subjects, to lead them into the same paths of light 
and liberty. Thus, gentlemen, I have given you a summary 
account of the views and endeavours of those men who are called 

The First Dialogue. 33 

free-thinkers. If, in the course of what I have said, or shall say 
hereafter, th^re be some things contrary to your preconceived 
opinions, and therefore shocking and disagreeable, you will pardon 
the freedom and plainness of a philosopher, and consider that, 
whatever displeasure I give you of that kind, I do it in strict 
regard to truth, and obedience to your own commands. I am 
very sensible that eyes long kept in the dark cannot bear a sudden 
view of noonday light, but must be brought to it by degrees. It 
is for this reason the ingenious gentlemen of our profession are 
accustomed to proceed gradually, beginning with those prejudices 
to which men have the least attachment, and thence proceeding 
to undermine the rest by slow and insensible degrees, till they 
have demolished the whole fabric of human folly and superstition. 
But the little time I can propose to spend here obligeth me to 
take a shorter course, and 'be more direct and plain than possibly 
may be thought to suit with prudence and good manners. 

Upon this, we assured him, he was at full liberty to speak his 
mind of things, persons, and opinions, without the least reserve. ' 

It is a liberty, replied Alciphron, that we free-thinkers are equally 
willing to give and take. We love to call things by their right 
names, and cannot endure that truth should suffer through com- 
plaisance. Let us, therefore, lay it down for a preliminary, that 
no offence be taken at anything whatsoever shall be said on either 
side. To which we all agreed. 

6. In order then, said Alciphron, to find out the truth, we will 
suppose that I am bred up, for instance, in the Church of England. 
When I come to maturity of judgment, and reflect on the par- 
ticular worship and opinions of this Church, I do not remember 
when or by what means they first took possession of my mind, bert 
there I find them from time immemorial. Then, casting an eye 
on the education of children, from whence I can make a judgment 
of my own, I observe they are instructed in religious matters 
before they can reason about them ; and, consequently, that all such 
instruction is nothing else but filling the tender mind of a child 
with prejudices. I do, therefore, reject all those religious notions, 
which I consider as the other follies of my childhood. I am 
confirmed in this way of thinking when I look abroad into the 
world, where I observe Papists, and several sects of Dissenters, 


34 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

which do all agree in a general profession of belief in Christ, 
but differ vastly one from another in the particulars < of faith and 
worship. I then enlarge my views so as to take in Jews and 
Mahometans, <bet ween whom and the Christians I perceive, indeed, 
some small agreement in the belief of one God ; but then they 
have each their distinct laws and revelations, for which they 
express the same regard. But, extending my view still further 
to heathenish and idolatrous nations, I discover an endless variety, 
not only in particular opinions and modes of worship, but even 
in the very notion of a Deity, wherein they widely differ one from 
another, and from all the forementioned sects. Upon the whole, 
instead of truth simple and uniform, I perceive nothing but 
discord, opposition, and wild pretensions, all springing from the 
same source, to wit, the prejudice of education. From such 
reasonings and reflections as these, thinKing men have concluded 
thatjall religions are alike false and fabulous. One is a Christian, 
another a Jew, a third a Mahometan, a fourth an idolatrous 
Gentile, but all from one and the same reason because they 
happen to be bred up each in his respective sect. In the same 
manner, therefore, as each of these contending parties condemns 
the rest, so an unprejudiced stander-by will condemn and reject 
them altogether, observing, that they all draw their origin from the 
same fallacious principle, and are carried on by the same artifice, 
to answer the same ends of the priest and the magistrate. 

7. Euph. You hold then that the magistrate concurs with the 
priest in imposing on the people ? 

Ale. I do ; and so must every one who considers things in a 
true light. For, you must know the magistrate's principal aim 
is to keep the people under him in awe. Now, the public eye 
restrains men from open offences against the laws and govern- 
ment. But, to prevent secret transgressions, a magistrate finds 
it expedient that men should believe there is an eye of Providence 
watching over their private actions and designs. And, to in- 
timidate those who might otherwise be drawn into crimes by the 
prospect of pleasure and profit, he gives them to understand that 
whoever escapes punishment in this life will be sure to find it 
in the next ; and that so heavy and lasting as infinitely to over- 
balance the pleasure and profit accruing from his crimes. Hence, 

The First Dialogue. 35* 

the belief of a God, the immortality of the soul, and a future 
state of rewards and punishments have been esteemed useful 
engines of government. And, t the end that these notional airy 
doctrines might make a sensible impression, and be retained on the 
minds of men, skilful rulers have, in several of the civilized nations 
of the earth, devised temples, sacrifices, churches, rites, ceremonies, 
habits, music, prayer, preaching, and the ^ike spiritual trumpery, 
whereby the priest maketh temporal gains, and the magistrate 
findeth his account in frightening and subduing the people. This 
is the original of the combination between Church and State, 
of religion by law established, of rights, immunities, and incomes 
of priests all over the world : there being no government but would 
have you fear God, that you may honour the king or civil power. 
And you will ever observe that politic princes keep up a good 
understanding with their clergy, to the end that they in return, 
by inculcating religion and loyalty into the minds of the people, 
may render them tame, timorous, and slavish. 

Crito and I heard this discourse of Alciphron with the utmost 
attention, though without any appearance of surprise, there being, 
indeed, nothing in it to us new or unexpected. But Euphranor, 
who had never before been present at such conversation, could 
not help shewing some astonishment ; which Lysicles observing, 
asked him with a lively air, how he liked Alciphron's lecture. It 
is, said he, the first I believe that you ever heard of the kind, and 
requireth a strong stomach to digest it. 

Euph. I will own to you that my digestion is none of the 
quickest ; but it hath sometimes, by degrees, been able to master 
things which at first appeared indigestible. At present I admire 
the free spirit and eloquence of Alciphron ; but, to speak the truth, 
I am rather astonished than convinced of the truth of his opinions. 
How ! (said he, turning to Alciphron) is it then possible you should 
not believe the being of a God ? 

Ale. To be plain with you, I do not. 

8. But this is what I foresaw a flood of light let in at once upon 
the mind being apt to dafcfcle and disorder, rather than enlighten 
it. Was I not pinched in time, the regular way would be to have 
begun with the circumstantials of religion ; next to have attacked 
the mysteries of Christianity j after that proceeded to the practical 

36 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

doctrines; and in the last place to have extirpated that which of 
all other religious prejudices, being the first taught and basis of the 
rest, hath taken the deepest root in our minds I mean, the 
belief of" a God. I do not wonder it sticks with you, having 
known several very ingenious men who found it difficult to free 
themselves from this prejudice. 

Euph. All men have not the same alacrity and vigour in 
thinking; for my own part, I find it a hard matter to keep pace 
with you. 

Ale. To help you, I ^yill go a little way back, and resume the 
thread of my reasoning. First, I must acquaint you that, having 
applied my mind to contemplate the idea of Truth, I discovered it 
to be of a stable, permanent, and uniform nature ; not various and 
changeable, like modes or fashions, and things depending on fancy. 
In the next place, having observed several sects and subdivisions 
of sects espousing very different and contrary opinions, and yet 
all professing Christianity, I rejected those points wherein they 
differed, retaining only that which was agreed to by all, and 
so became a Latitudinarian. Having afterwards, upon a more 
enlarged view of things, perceived that Christians, Jews, and 
Mahometans had each their different systems of faith, agreeing 
only in the belief of one God, I became a Deist. Lastly, extending 
my view to all the other various nations which inhabit this globe, 
and finding they agreed in no one point of faith, but differed one 
from another, as well as from the forementioned sects, even in 
the notion of a God, in which there is as great diversity as in the 
methods of worship, I thereupon became an Atheist : it being my 
opinion that a man of courage and sense should follow his argu- 
ment wherever it leads him, and that nothing is more ridiculous 
than to be a free-thinker by halves. I approve the man who makes 
thorough work, and, not content with lopping off" the branches, 
extirpates the very root from which they sprung. 

9. Atheism therefore, that bugbear of women and fools, is the 
very top and perfection of free-thinking 4 . It is the grand arcanum 
to wWch a true genius naturally riseth, by a certain climax or 
gradation of thought, and without which he can never possess his 

4 Cf. Tbeory of Vision Vindicated, sect, i 8, where it is maintained that Atheism is the 
goal of the prevalent deistical free-thinking. 

The First Dialogue. 37 

soul in absolute liberty and repose. For your thorough conviction 
in this main article, do but examine the notion of a God with the 
same freedom that you would other prejudices. Trace it to the 
fountain-head, and you shall not find that you had it by any of 
your senses the only true means of discovering what is real and 
substantial in nature: you will find it lying amongst other old 
lumber in some obscure corner of the imagination, the proper 
receptacle of visions, fancies, and prejudices of all kinds ; and if 
you are more attached to this than the rest, it is only because it is 
the oldest. This is all, take my word for it, and not mine only 
but that of many more the most ingenious men of the age, whc, I 
can assure you, think as I do on the subject of a Deity. Though 
some of them hold it proper to proceed with more reserve in 
declaring to the world their opinion in this particular than in 
most others. And, it must be owned, there are still too many in 
England who retain a foolish prejudice against the name of atheist. 
But it lessens every day among the better sort ; and when it is 
quite worn ^out our free-thinkers may then (and not till then) be 
said to have given the finishing stroke to religion; it being 
evident that, so long as the existence of God is believed, religion 
must subsist in some shape or other. But, the root being once 
plucked up, the scions which shoot from it will of course wither 
and decay. Such are all those whimsical notions of conscience, 
duty, principle, and the like, which fill a man's head with scruples, 
awe him with fears, and make him a more thorough slave than the 
horse he rides. A man had better a thousand times be hunted by 
bailiffs or messengers than haunted by these spectres, which em- 
barrass and embitter all his pleasures, creating the most real and 
sore servitude upon earth. But the free-thinker, with a vigorous 
flight of thought, breaks through those airy springes, and asserts 
his original independency. Others indeed may talk, and write, 
and fight about liberty, and make an outward pretence to it ; but 
the free-thinker alone is truly free. 

Alciphron having ended this discourse with an air of triumph, 
Euphranor spoke to him in the following manner : 

You make clear work. The gentlemen of your profession are, 
it seems, admirable weeders. You have rooted up a world of 
notions : I should be glad to see what fine things you have planted 
in their stead. 

38 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Ale. Have patience, good Euphranor. I will shew you, in the 
first place, that whatever was sound and good we lear/e untouched, 
and encourage it to grow in the mind of man. And, secondly, I 
will shew ypu what excellent things we have planted in it. You 
must know then that, pursuing our close and' severe scrutiny, we 
do at last arrive at something solid and real, in which all man- 
kind agree, to wit, the appetites, passions, and senses : these are 
founded in nature, ard real, have real objects, and are attended 
with real and substantial pleasures j food, drink, sleep, and the 
like animal enjoyments being what all men like and love. And, 
if^we extend our view f to other kinds of animals, we shall find 
them all agree in this, that they have certain natural appetites and 
senses, in the gratifying and satisfying of which they are con- 
stantly employed. Now, these real natural good things, which 
include nothing of notion or fancy, we*are so far from destroying, 
that we do all we can to cherish and improve them. According 
to us, every wise man looks upon himself, or his own bodily exist- 
ence in this present world, as the centre and ultimate end of all 
his actions and regards. He considers his appetites as natural 
guides, directing to his groper good, his passions and senses as the 
natural true means of enjoying this good. Hence, he endeavours 
to keep his appetites in high relish, his passions and senses strong 
and lively, and to provide the greatest quantity and variety of 
real objects suited to them, which he studieth to enjoy by all 
possible means, and in the highest perfection imaginable. And 
the man who can do this without restraint, remorse, or fear is as 
happy as any other animal whatsoever, or as his nature is capable 
of being. Thus I have given you a succinct view of the principles, 
discoveries, and tenets of the select spirits of this enlightened 

10. Crito remarked, that Alciphron had spoken his mind with 
great clearness. 

Yes, replied Euphranor, we are obliged to the gentleman for 
letting us at once into the tenets of his sect. But, if I may be 
allowed to speak my mind, Alciphron, though in compliance with 
my own request, hath given me no small uneasiness. 

You need, said Alciphron, make no apology for speaking freely 
what you think to one who professeth himself a free-thinker. 

The First Dialogue. 39 

I should be sorry to make one, whom I meant to oblige, uneasy. 
Pray let me 4cnow wherein I have offended* 

I am half ashamed, replied Euphranor, to own that I, who am 
no great genius, have a weakness incidental to little -ones. I 
would say that I hive favourite opinions, which you represent to 
be errors and prejudices. For instance, the Immortality of the 
Soul is a notion I am fond of, as what supports the mind with a 
very pleasing prospect. And, if it be afi error, I should perhaps 
be of Tully's mind, who in that case professed he should be sorry 
to know the truth, acknowledging no sort of obligation to certain 
philosophers in his days, who taught the*soul of man was mor^K 
They were, it seems, predecessors to those who are now called 
free-thinkers ; which name being too general and indefinite in- 
asmuch as it comprehends all those who think for themselves, 
whether they agree in opinion with these gentlemen or no it 
should not seem amiss to assign them a specific appellation or 
peculiar name, whereby to distinguish them from other philo- 
sophers, at least in our present conference. For, I cannot bear to 
argue against free-thinking and free-thinkers. 

Ale. In the eyes of a wise man words are of small moment. We 
do not think truth attached to a name. 

Euph. If you please then, to avoid confusion, let us call your sect 
by the same name that Tully (who understood the force of lan- 
guage) bestowed upon them. 

Ale. With all my heart. Pray what may that name be ? 

Eufh. Why, he calls them minute philosophers 6 . 

Right, said Crito, the modern free-thinkers are the very same 
with those Cicero called minute philosophers, which name ad- 
mirably suits them, they being a sort of sect which diminish all 
the most valuable things, the thoughts, views, and hopes of men ; 
all the knowledge, notions, and theories of the mind they reduce 
to sense ; human nature they contract and degrade to the narrow 
low standard of animal life, and assign us only a small pittance of 
.time instead of immortality. 

Alciphron very gravely remarked that the gentlemen of his 
sect had done no injury to man, and that, if he be^a little, 
short-lived, contemptible animal, it was not their saying it made 

5 Cicero, Tuscul. QW<BS/. I. 24. 

8 Cicero, De Finibus, I. 18 ; De Senectute, 86 ; De Divinations, I. 62. 

40 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

him so: and they were no more to blame for whatever defeats 
they discover than a faithful glass for making the wrinkles which 
it only shows. As to what you observe, said he, of those we now 
call free-thinkers having been anciently termed minute philosophers, 
it is my opinion this appellation might be derived from their con- 
sidering things minutely, and not swallowing them in the gross, as 
other men are used to do. Besides, we all know the best eyes are 
necessary to discern the minutest objects : it seems, therefore, that 
minute philosophers might have been so called from their distin- 
guished perspicacity. 

Euph. O Alciphron! these minute philosophers (since that is 
their true name) are a sort of pirates who plunder all that come in 
their way 7. I consider myself as a man left stripped and desolate 
on a bleak beach. 

ii. But who are these profound and learned men that of late 
years have demolished the whole fabric which lawgivers, philo- 
sophers, and divines had been erecting for so many ages ? 

Lysicles, hearing these words, smiled, and said he believed 
Euphranor had figured to himself philosophers in square caps 
and long gowns : but, thanks to these happy times, the reign of 
pedantry was over. Our philosophers, said he, are of a different 
kind from those awkward students who think to come at know- 
ledge by poring on dead languages and old authors, or by 
sequestering themselves from the cares of the world to meditate 
in solitude and retirement. They are the best bred men of the 
age, men who know the world, men of pleasure, men of fashion, 
and fine gentlemen. 

Euph. I have some small notion of the people you mention, but 
should never have taken them for philosophers. 

Cri. Nor would any one else till of late. The world it seems 
was long under a mistake about the way to knowledge, thinking 
it lay through a tedious course of academical education and study. 
But, among the discoveries of the present age, one of the principal 
is the finding out that such a method doth rather retard and 
obstruct than promote knowledge. 

Ale. Academical study may be comprised in two points, reading 
and meditation. Their reading is chiefly employed on ancient 

7 Cf. sect. 13. 

The First Dialogue. 41 

authors in dead languages : so that a great part of their time is 
spent in leading words; which, when they have mastered with 
infinite pains, what do they get by it but old and obsolete notions, 
that are now quite exploded and out of use? Then, as, to their 
meditations, what (ten they possibly be good for ? He that wants 
the proper materials of thought may think and meditate for ever 
to no purpose : those cobwebs spun by scholars out of their own 
brains being alike unserviceable, either* for use or ornament. 
Proper ideas or materials are only to be got by frequenting good 
company. I know several gentlemen who, since their appearance 
in the world, have spent as much time ii* rubbing off the rust and. 
pedantry of a college education as they had done before *in 
acquiring it. 

Lysicles. I will undertake, a lad of fourteen, bred in the modern 
way, shall make a better* figure, and be more considered in any 
drawing-room or assembly of polite people, than one at four-and- 
twenty, who hath lain by a long time at school and college. He 
shall say better things in a better manner, and be more liked by 
good judges. 

Euph. Where doth he pick up all this improvement ? 

Crl. Where our grave ancestors would never have looked for it 
in a drawing-room, a coffee-house, a chocolate-house, at the 
tavern, or groom-porter's. In these and the like fashionable 
places of resort, it is the custom for polite persons to speak freely 
on all subjects, religious, moral, or political. So that a young 
gentleman who frequents them is in the way of hearing many 
instructive lectures, seasoned with wit and raillery, and uttered 
with spirit. Three or four sentences from a man of quality, 
spoken with a good air, make more impression and convey more 
knowledge than a dofcen dissertations in a dry academical way. 

Euph. There is then no method, or course of studies, in those 
places ? 

Lys. None but an easy free conversation, which takes in every- 
thing that offers, without any rule or design. 

Euph. I always thought that some order was necessary to attain 
any useful degree of knowledge; that haste and confusion begat 
a conceited ignorance; that to make our advances surfe, they 
should be gradual, and those points first learned which might cast 
a light on what was to follow. 

42 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Ale. So long as learning was to be obtained only by that slow 
formal course of study, few of the better sort knev r much of it : 
but, now it has grown an amusement, our young gentry and 
nobility , imbibe it insensibly amidst their diversions, and make 
a considerable progress. 

Euph. Hence probably the great number of minute philosophers. 

Cri. It is to this that sect is owing for so many ingenious 
proficients of both sexes. You may now commonly see (what no 
former age ever saw) a young lady, or a petit maitre^ nonplus 
a divine, or an old-fashioned gentleman, who hath read many 
a Greek and Latin author, and spent much time in hard 
methodical study. 

Euph. It should seem then that method, exactness, and industry 
are a disadvantage. 

Here Alciphron, turning to Lysicles, said he could make the 
point very clear, if Euphranor had any notion of painting. 

Euph. I never saw a first-rate picture in my life, but have 
a tolerable collection of prints, and have seen some good drawings. 

Ale. You know then the difference between the Dutch and 
Italian manner? 

Euph. I have some notion of it. 

Ale. Suppose now a drawing finished by the nice and laborious 
touches of a Dutch pencil, and another off-hand scratched out in 
the free manner of a great Italian master. The Dutch piece, 
which hath cost so much pains and time, will be exact indeed, 
but without that force, spirit, and grace which appear in the other, 
and are the effects of an easy, free pencil. Do but apply this, and 
the point will be clear. 

Euph. Pray inform me, did those great Italian masters begin 
and proceed in their art without any choice of method or subject, 
and always draw with the same ease and freedom ? Or did they 
observe some method, beginning with simple and elementary parts, 
an eye, a nose, a finger, which they drew with great pains and care, 
often drawing the same thing, in order to draw it correctly, and 
so proceeding with patience and industry, till, after a considerable 
length of time, they arrive at the free masterly manner you speak 
of. If this were the case, I leave you to make the application. 

Ale. You may dispute the matter if you please. But a man of 
parts is one thing, and a pedant another. Pains and method may 

The First Dialogue. 43 

do for some sort of people. A man must be a long time kindling 
wet straw into a vile smothering flame, but spirits blaz,e out at once. 

Eufh. The minute philosophers have, it seems, better parts than 
other men, which qualifies them for a different education. 

Ale. Tell me, Etiphranor, what is it that gives one man a better 
mien than another ; more politeness in dress, speech, and motion ? 
Nothing but frequenting good company. By the same means men 
get insensibly a delicate taste, a refined judgment, a certain 
politeness in thinking and expressing one's self. No wonder if 
you countrymen are strangers to the advantage of polite conver- 
sation, which constantly keeps the mind awake and active, exer- 
cising its faculties, and calling forth all its strength and spirit* on 
a thousand different occasions and subjects that never came in the 
way of a book-worm in a college, any more than of a ploughman. 

Cri. Hence those litely faculties, that quickness of appre- 
hension, that slyness of ridicule, that egregious talent of wit 
and humour which distinguish the gentlemen of your profession. 

Euph. It should seem then that your sect is made up of what 
you call fine gentlemen. 

Lys. Not altogether, for we have among us some contemplative 
spirits of a coarser education, who, from observing the behaviour 
and proceedings of apprentices, watermen, porters, and the assem- 
blies of rabble in the streets, have arrived at a profound knowledge 
of human nature, and made great discoveries about the principles, 
springs, and motives of moral actions. These have demolished 
the received systems, and done a world of good in the city. 

Ale. I tell you we have men of all sorts and professions, 
plodding citizens, thriving stock-jobbers, skilful men in business, 
polite courtiers, gallant men of the army; but our chief strength, ^ 
and flower of the flock, are those promising young men who have 
the advantage of a modern education. These are the growing 
hopes of our sect, by whose credit and influence in a few years we 
expect to see those great things accomplished that we have in view. 

Euph. I could never have imagined your sect so considerable. 

Ale. There are in England many honest folk as much in the 
dark about these matters as yourselves. 

12. To judge of the prevailing opinion among people of fashion, 
by what a senator saith in the house, a judge upon the bench, or 

44 AlciphroH) or the Minute Philosopher: 

a priest in the pulpit, who all speak according to law, that is to 
the reverend prejudices of our forefathers, would be vrong. You 
should go into good company, and mind what men of parts and 
breeding ay, those who are best heard and most admired, as well 
in public places of resort as in private visits. He only who hath 
these opportunities can know our real strength, our numbers, and 
the figure that we make. 

Eufh. By your account* there must be many minute philosophers 
among the men of rank and fortune. 

Ale. Take my word for it, not a few ; and they do much con- 
tribute to the spreading p our notions. For, he who knows the 
world must observe that fashions constantly descend. It is 
therefore the right way to propagate an opinion from the upper 
end. Not to say that the patronage of such men is an encourage- 
ment to our authors. 

Euph. It seems, then, you have authors among you. 

Lys. That we have, several, and those very great men, who have 
obliged the world with many useful and profound discoveries. 

Cr/. Moschon, for instance, hath proved that man and beast are 
really of the same nature: that consequently a man need only 
indulge his senses and appetites to be as happy as a brute* 
Gorgias hath gone further, demonstrating man to be a piece of 
clock-work or machine ; and that thought or reason is the same 
thing as the impulse of one ball against another. Cimon hath 
made noble use of these discoveries, proving, as clearly as any pro- 
position in mathematics, that conscience is a whim, and morality 
a prejudice; and that a man is no more accountable for his actions 
than a clock is for striking. Tryphon hath written irrefragably 
on the usefulness of vice. Thrasenor hath confuted the foolish 
prejudice men had against atheism, shewing that a republic of 
atheists might live very happily together. Demylas hath made 
a jest of loyalty, and convinced the world there is nothing 
in it : to him and another philosopher of the same stamp this 
age is indebted for discovering that public spirit is an idle 
enthusiasm, which seizeth only on weak minds 8 . It would be 
endless to recount the discoveries made by writers of this sect. 

Lys. But the masterpiece and finishing stroke is a learned 

8 Cf. Maxims concerning Patriotism, sect. 26; Siris, sect. 331. So also Butler, in his 

The First Dialogue. 45 

anecdote of our great Diagoras, containing a demonstration against 
the being of God: which it is conceived the public is not 
yet ripe for 9. But I am assured by some judicious friends who 
have seen it that it is as clear as daylight, and will do a -world of 
good, at one blow demolishing the whole system of religion. 
These discoveries are published by our philosophers, sometimes in 
just volumes, but often in pamphlets and loose papers for their 
readier conveyance through the kingdom* * And to them must be 
ascribed that absolute and independent freedom which groweth 
so fast to the terror of all bigots. Even the dull and ignorant 
begin to open their eyes, and be influenced by the example %nd* 
authority of so many ingenious men. 

Euph. It should seem by this account that your sect extend their 
discoveries beyond religion ; and that loyalty to his prince and 
reverence for the laws are but mean things in the eye of a minute 

Lys. Very mean; we are too wise to think there is anything 
sacred either in king or constitution, or indeed in anything else. 
A man of sense may perhaps seem to pay an occasional regard 
to his prince ; but this is no more at bottom than what he pays 
to God, when he kneels at the sacrament to qualify himself for an 
office 10 . c Fear God' and c Honour the king' are a pair of slavish 
maxims, which had for a long time cramped human nature, and 
awed not only weak minds but even men of good understanding, 
till their eyes, as I observed before, were opened by our philosophers, 
Eufh. Methinks I can easily comprehend that when the fear of 
God is quite extinguished the mind must be very easy with 
respect to other duties, which become outward pretences and 
formalities, from the moment that they quit their hold upon the 
conscience, and conscience always supposeth the being of a God. 
But I still thought that Englishmen of all denominations (how 
widely soever they differ as to some particular points) agreed in 
the belief of a God, and of so much at least as is called Natural 

Ale. I have already told you my own opinion of those matters, 
and what I know to be the opinion of many more. 

Cri. Probably, Euphranor, by the title of Deists, which is some- 

9 Cf. * Editor's Preface/ p. 5, and ' Advertisement,' note by Editor. 
10 Cf. Dial. III. sect. 2. 

46 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

times given to minute philosophers, you have been misled to 
imagine they believe and worship a God according t6 the light of 
nature, but, by living among them, you may soon be convinced 
of the contrary. They have neither time, nor place, nor form of 
Divine worship ; they offer neither prayers nor praises to God in 
public ; and in their private practice shew a contempt or dislike 
even of the duties of Natural Religion. For instance, the saying 
grace before and after rheals is a plain point of natural worship, 
and was once universally practised 11 ; but in proportion as this sect 
prevailed it hath been laid aside, not only by the minute philoso- 
phqrs themselves, who would be infinitely ashamed of such a 
weakness as to beg God's blessing or give God thanks for their 
daily food, but also by others who are afraid of being thought fools 
by the minute philosophers. 

Eufh. Is it possible that men who really believe a God should 
yet decline paying so easy and reasonable a duty for fear of incur- 
ring the contempt of atheists ? 

Cri. I tell you there are many who, believing in their hearts the 
truth of religion, are yet afraid or ashamed to own it, lest they 
should forfeit their reputation with those who have the good luck 
to pass for great wits and men of genius. 

Ale. O Euphranor, we must make allowance for Crito's prejudice: 
he is a worthy gentleman, and means well. But doth it not look 
like prejudice to ascribe the respect that is paid our ingenious 
free-thinkers rather to good luck than to merit ? 

Euph. I acknowledge their merit to be very wonderful, and that 
those authors must needs be great men who are able to prove such 
paradoxes: for example, that so knowing a man as a minute philo- 
sopher should be a mere machine, or at best no better than a brute. 

Ale. It is a true maxim That a man should think with the 
learned, and speak with the vulgar. I should be loath to place 
a gentleman of merit in such a light, before prejudiced or ignorant 
men. The tenets of our philosophy have this in common with 
many other truths in metaphysics, geometry, astronomy, and 
natural philosophy that vulgar ears cannot bear them. All our 
discoveries and notions are in themselves true and certain ; but 
they are at present known only to the better sort, and would 

11 This passage is ridiculed by the * Country Clergyman/ in his Remarks on the Minute 
Philosopher, pp. 38 40. 

The First Dialogue. 47 

sound strange and odd among the vulgar. But this, it is to be 
hoped, will wear off with time. 

Euph. I do not wonder that vulgar minds should be startled at 
the notions of your philosophy. 

Cri. Truly a ver^ curious sort of philosophy, and much to be 
admired ! 

13. The profound thinkers of this way Have taken a direct con- 
trary course to all the great philosophers of former ages, who made 
it their endeavour to raise and refine human-kind, and remove it 
as far as possible from the brute ; to moderate and subdue men's 
appetites; to remind them of the dignity of their nature; to 
awaken and improve their superior faculties, and direct them to 
the noblest objects ; to possess men's minds with a high sense of 
the Divinity, of the Supreme Good, and the Immortality of the 
Soul. They took great pains to strengthen the obligations to 
virtue; and upon all those subjects have wrought out noble theories, 
and treated with singular force of reason. But it seems our 
minute philosophers act the reverse of all other wise and thinking 
men ; it being their end and aim to erase the principles of all that 
is great and good from the mind of man, to unhinge all order of 
civil life, to undermine the foundations of morality, and, instead 
of improving and ennobling our natures, to bring us down to the 
maxims and way of thinking of the most uneducated and barbarous 
nations, and even to degrade human-kind to a level with brute 
beasts. And all the while they would pass upon the world for men 
of deep knowledge. But, in effect, what is all this negative 
knowledge better than downright savage ignorance ? That there 
is no Providence, no Spirit, no Future State, no Moral Duty : truly 
a fine system for an honest man to own, or an ingenious man to 
value himself upon ! 

Alciphron, who heard this discourse with some uneasiness, 
very gravely replied: Disputes are not to be decided by the 
weight of authority, but by the force of reason. You may pass, 
indeed, general reflections on our notions, and call them brutal 
and barbarous if you please : but it is such brutality and such 
barbarism as few could have attained to if men of the greatest 
genius had not broken the ice, there being nothing more difficult 
than to get the better of education, and conquer old prejudices. 

48 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

To remove and cast off a heap of rubbish that has been gathering 
upon the soul from our very infancy requires great courage 
and great strength of faculties. Our philosophers, therefore, do 
well deserve the name of esprits forts, men of strong heads^ free- 
thinker^ and such like appellations, betokenihg great force and 
liberty of mind. It is very possible the heroic labours of these 
men may be represented (for what is not capable of misrepresenta- 
tion?) as a piratical plundering, and stripping the mind of its 
wealth and ornaments 1 ' 2 , when it is in truth divesting it only of its 
prejudices, and reducing it to its untainted original state of nature. 
*Oh nature ! the genuine beauty of pure nature ! 

Euph. You seem very much taken with the beauty of nature. 
Be pleased to tell me, Alciphron, what those things are which you 
esteem natural, or by what mark I may know them. 

14. Ale. For a thing to be natural 13 , for instance, to the mind of 
man, it must appear originally therein ; it must be universally in 
all men ; it must be invariably the same in all nations and ages. 
These limitations of original, universal, and invariable exclude 
all those notions found in the human mind which are the effect of 
custom and education. The case is the same with respect to all other 
species of beings. A cat, for example, hath a natural inclination 
to pursue a mouse, because it agrees with the forementioned marks. 
But, if a cat be taught to play tricks, you will not say those tricks 
are natural. For the same reason, if upon a plum-tree peaches and 
apricots are engrafted, nobody will say they are the natural growth 
of the plum-tree. 

Euph. But to return to man: it seems you allow those things 
alone to be natural to him which show themselves upon his first 
entrance into the world ; to wit, the senses, and such passions and 
appetites as are discovered upon the first application of their 
respective objects. 

Ale. That is my opinion. 

12 Cf. sect. 10. form in all ; and must belief in Moral 

13 The marks for distinguishing the Government and in a Future Life be pro- 
constituent principles of what has been called nounced a prejudice due to casual custom, 
the moral <or practical reason in human nature if we find that, unlike the bodily appetites, 
are discussed in this and the following section. it is of gradual growth, and not developed 
Are those beliefs only to be esteemed at all in some men? Cf. Berkeley's ZVs- 
' natural/ it is asked, which show themselves course of Passive Obedience, sect. 4 12. 

in infancy, in all men, and in the same 

The First Dialogue. 49 

Euph. Tell "me, Alciphron, if from a young apple-tree, after 
a certain period of time, there should shoot forth leaves, blossoms, 
and apples ; would you deny these things to be natural, because 
they did not discover and display themselves in the tender bud ? 

Ale. I would not? 

Euph. And suppose that in a man, after a certain season, the 
appetite of lust, or the faculty of reason shall shoot forth, open, and 
display themselves, as leaves and blossoms do in a tree would you, 
therefore, deny them to be natural to him, because they did not 
appear in his original infancy ? 

Ale. I acknowledge I would not. 

Euph. It seems, therefore, that the first mark of a thing's being 
natural to the mind was not warily laid down by you j to wit, that 
it should appear originally in it. 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. Again, inform me, Alciphron, whether you do not think 
it natural for an orange-plant tree to produce oranges ? 

Ale. I do. 

Euph. But plant it in the north end of Great Britain, and it 
shall with care produce, perhaps, a gt>od salad; in the southern 
parts of the same island, it may, with much pains and culture, 
thrive and produce indifferent fruit; but in Portugal or Naples 
it will produce much better with little or no pains. Is this true 
or not ? 

Ale. It is true. 

Euph. The plant being the same in all places doth not produce 
the same fruit sun, soil, and cultivation making a difference. 

Ale. I grant it. 

Euph. And, since the case is, you say, the same with respect to 
all species, why may we not conclude, by a parity of a reason, that 
things may be natural to human-kind, and yet neither found in all 
men, nor invariably the same where they are found ? 

Ale. Hold, Euphranor, you must explain yourself further. I shall 
not be over hasty in my concessions. 

Lys. You are in the right, Alciphron, to stand upon your guard. 
I do not like these ensnaring questions. 

Euph. I desire you to make no concessions in complaisance to 
me, but only to tejl me your opinion upon each particular, that we 
may understand one another, know wherein to agree, and proceed 

VOL. n. E 

SO Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

jointly in finding out the truth. But (added Euphranor, turning to 
Crito and me) if the gentlemen are against a free ancj, fair inquiry, 
I shall give them no further trouble. 

Ale. Our opinions will stand the test. We fear no trial j pro- 
ceed as you please. 

Euph. It seems then that, from what you have granted, it should 
follow things may be natural to men, although they do not actually 
show themselves in all men, nor in equal perfection ; there being 
as great difference of culture, and every other advantage, with 
respect to human nature, as is to be found with respect to the 
vegetable nature of plantc, to use your own similitude j is it so or 
not ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Answer me, Alciphron, do not men in all times and 
places, when they arrive at a certain age, express their thoughts by 
speech ? 

Ale. They do. 

Euph. Should it not seem, then, that language is natural ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. And yet there is a great variety of languages ? 

Ale. I acknowledge there is. 

Euph. From all this will it not follow a thing may be natural 
and yet admit of variety ? 

Ale. I grant it will. 

Euph. Should it not seem, therefore, to follow that a thing 
may be natural to mankind, though it have not those marks or 
conditions assigned} though it be not original, universal, and 
invariable ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. And that, consequently, religious worship and civil go- 
vernment may be natural to man, notwithstanding they admit 
of sundry forms and different degrees of perfection ? 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. You have granted already that reason is natural to 
Ale. I have. 

Euph. Whatever, therefore, is agreeable to reason is agreeable to 
the nature of man. 
Ale. It is. 

The First Dialogue. 51 

Euph. Will it not follow from hence that truth and virtue are 
natural to man ? 

Ale. Whatever is reasonable I admit to be natural. 

Euph. And, as those fruits which grow from the most generous 
and mature stock, in the choicest soil, and with the best culture, 
are most esteemed ; even so ought we not to think those sublime 
truths, which are the fruits of mature thought, and have been 
rationally deduced by men of the best and 'most improved under- 
standings, to be the choicest productions of the rational nature of 
man ? And, if so, being in fact reasonable, natural, and true, 
they ought not to be esteemed unnaturalVhims, errors of educa- 
tion, and groundless prejudices, because they are raised and 
forwarded by manuring and cultivating our tender minds, because 
they take early root, and sprout forth betimes by the care and 
diligence of our instructors. 

Ale. Agreed, provided still they may be rationally deduced : but 
to take this for granted of what men vulgarly call the Truths of 
Morality and Religion, would be begging the question. 

Euph. You are in the right : I do not, therefore, take for 
granted that they are rationally deduced. I only suppose that, if 
they are, they must be allowed natural to man or, in other words, 
agreeable to, and growing from, the most excellent and peculiar 
part of human nature. 

Ale. I have nothing to object to this. 

Euph. What shall we think then of your former assertions 
that nothing is natural to man but what may be found in all men, 
in all nations and ages of the world ; that, to obtain a genuine 
view of human nature, we must extirpate all the effects of educa- 
tion and instruction, and regard only the senses, appetites, and 
passions, which are to be found originally in all mankind ; that, 
therefore, the notion of a God can have no foundation in nature, 
as not being originally in the mind, nor the same in all men ? 
Be pleased to reconcile these things with your late concessions, 
which the force of truth seems to have extorted from you. 

15. Ale. Tell me, Euphranor, whether truth be not one and the 
same, uniform, invariable thing : and, if so, whether the' many 
different and inconsistent notions which men entertain of God 
and duty be not a plain proof there is no truth in them ? 

E 2 

52 Alciphron, or the Mimite Philosopher: 

Euph. That truth is constant and uniform I freely own, and 
that consequently opinions repugnant to each other cannot be 
true : but I think it will not hence follow they are all alike false. 
If, among various opinions about the same thing, one be grounded 
on clear and evident reasons, that is to be' thought true, and 
others only so far as they consist with it. Reason is the same, 
and rightly applied will lead to the same conclusions, in all times 
and places. Socrates, two thousand years ago, seems to have 
reasoned himself into the same notion of a God which is enter- 
tained by the philosophers of our days, if you will allow that name 
to any who are not atheists. And the remark of Confucius, that 
a man should guard in his youth against lust, in manhood against 
faction, and in old age against covetousness, is as current morality 
in Europe as in China. 

Ale. But still it would be a satisfactidn if all men thought the 
same way, difference of opinions implying uncertainty. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, what you take to be the cause of a 
lunar eclipse. 

Ale. The shadow of the earth interposing between the sun and 

Euph. Are you sure of this ? 

Ah. Undoubtedly. 

Euph. . Are all mankind agreed in this truth ? 

Ale. By no means. Ignorant and barbarous people assign 
different ridiculous causes of this appearance. 

Euph. It seems, then, there are different opinions about the 
nature of an eclipse. 

Ale. There are. 

Euph. And nevertheless one of these opinions is true. 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Diversity, therefore, of opinions about a thing, doth not 
hinder that the thing may be, and one of the opinions concerning 
it may be true. 

Ale. I acknowledge it. 

Euph. It should seem, therefore, that your argument against the 
belief of a God from the variety of opinions about his nature is 
not conclusive. Nor do I see how you can conclude against the 
truth of any moral or religious tenet, from the various opinions of 
men upon the same subject. Might not a man as well argue, that 

The First Dialogue. 53 

no historical account of a matter of fact can be true, when different 
relations are* given of it? Or, may we not as well infer that, 
because the several sects of philosophy maintain different opinions, 
none of them can b^ in the right, not even the minute philosophers 
themselves ? 

During this conversation Lysicles seemed uneasy, like one that 
wished in his heart there was no God. Alciphron, said he, 
methinks you sit by very tamely, while Euphranor saps the 
foundation of our tenets. 

Be of good courage, replied Alciphron,; a skilful gamester has 
been known to ruin his adversary by yielding him some advantage 
at first. I am glad, said he, turning to Euphranor, that you are 
drawn in to argue, and make your appeals to reason. For my part, 
wherever reason leads I sh^ll not be afraid to follow. Know then, 
Euphranor, that I freely give up what you now contend for. I do 
not value the success of a few crude notions thrown out in a loose 
discourse, any more than the Turks do the loss of that vile 
infantry they place in the front of their armies, for no other end 
but to waste the powder, and blunt the swords of their enemies. 
Be assured I have in reserve a body of other guess arguments, 
which I am ready to produce. I will undertake to prove 

Euph. O Alciphron ! I do not doubt your faculty of proving. 
But, before I put you to the trouble of any farther proofs, I should 
be glad to know whether the notions of your minute philosophy 
are worth proving. I mean, whether they are of use and service 
to mankind. 

1 6. Ale. As to that, give me leave to tell you, a thing may be 
useful to one man's views, and not to another's : but truth is truth, 
whether useful or not, and must not be measured by the con- 
venience of this or that man, or party of men. 

Euph. But is not the general good of mankind 13 to be regarded 
as a rule and measure of moral truths of all such truths as direct 
or influence the moral actions of men ? 

Ale. That point is not clear to me. I know, indeed, that legis- 
lators, and divines, and politicians have always alleged, that it is 
necessary to the well-being of mankind that they should be kept 

- u Cf. Discourse of Passive Obedience, two following Dialogues, as illustrating the 
which should be compared with this and the ethical theory of Berkeley. 

54 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

in awe by the slavish notions of religion and morality. But, 
granting all this, how will it prove these notion^ to be true ? 
Convenience is one thing, and truth is another. A genuine 
philosopher, therefore, will overlook all advantages, and consider 
only truth itself as such. 

Eufh. Tell me, Alciphron, is your genuine philosopher a wise 
man, or a fool ? 

Ale. Without question, the wisest of men. 

Eufh. Which is to be thought the wise man, he who acts with 
design, or he who acts at random ? 
,Alc. He who acts with design. 

Eufh. Whoever acts with design, acts for some end : doth he 

Ale. He doth. 

Eufh. And a wise man for a good end ? 

Ale. True. 

Eufh. And he sheweth his wisdom in making choice of fit 
means to obtain his end ? 

Ale. I acknowledge it. 

Eufh. By how much, therefore, the end proposed is more excel- 
lent, and by how much fitter the means employed are to obtain it, 
so much the wiser is the agent to be esteemed ? 

Ale. This seems to be true. 

Eufh. Can a rational agent propose a more excellent end than 
happiness ? 

Ale. He cannot. 

Eufh. Of good things, the greater good is most excellent ? 

Ale. Doubtless. 

Eufh. Is not the general happiness of mankind a greater good 
than the private happiness of one man, or of some certain men ? 

Ale. It is. 

Eufh. Is it not therefore the most excellent end ? 

Ale. It seems so. 

Eufh. Are not then those who pursue this end, by the properest 
methods, to be thought the wisest men ? 

Ale. I grant they are. 

Eufh. Which is a wise man governed by, wise or foolish 
notions ? 

Ale. By wise, doubtless. 

The First Dialogue. 55 

Euph. It seems then to follow, that he who promotes the general 
well-being of mankind, by the proper necessary means, is truly 
wise, and acts upon wise grounds. 

Ale. It should secern so. 

Euph. And is not folly of an opposite nature to wisdom ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Might it not therefore be inferred, that those men are 
foolish who go about to unhinge such principles as have a necessary 
connection with the general good of mankind ? 

Ale. Perhaps this might be granted : but at the same time T 
must observe that it is in my power to deny it. 

Euph. How ! you will not surely deny the conclusion, when you 
admit the premises ? 

Ale. I would fain know upon what terms we argue j whether in 
this progress of question and answer, if a man makes a slip, it be 
utterly irretrievable ? For, if you are on the catch to lay hold of 
every advantage, without allowing for surprise or inattention, I 
must tell you this is not the way to convince my judgment. 

Euph. O Alciphron ! I aim not at triumph, but at truth. You 
are therefore at full liberty to unravel all that hath been said, and 
to recover or correct any slip you have made. But then you must 
distinctly point it out : otherwise it will be impossible ever to 
arrive at any conclusion. 

Ale. I agree with you upon these terms jointly to proceed in 
search of truth, for to that I am sincerely devoted. In the progress 
of our present inquiry, I was, it seems, guilty of an oversight, in 
acknowledging the general happiness of mankind to be a greater 
good than the particular happiness of one man. For in fact the 
individual happiness of every man alone constitutes his own 
entire good. The happiness of other men, making no part of 
mine, is not with respect to me a good : I mean a true natural 
good. It cannot therefore be a reasonable end to be proposed by 
me, in truth and nature (for I do not speak of political pretences), 
since no wise man will pursue an end which doth not concern 
him. This is the voice of nature. O nature ! thou art the foun- 
tain, original, and pattern of all that is good and wise. 

Euph. You would like then to follow nature, and propose her as 
a guide and pattern for your imitation ? 
Ale. Of all things. 

56 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Euph. Whence do you gather this respect for nature ? 

Ale. From the excellency of her productions. * 

Euph. In a vegetable, for instance, you say there is use and 
excellency ; because the several parts of it are so connected and 
fitted to each other as to protect and nourish the whole, make the 
individual grow, and propagate the kind; and because in its fruits 
or qualities it is adapted to please the sense, or contribute to the 
benefit of man. 

Ale. Even so. 

Euph. In like manner, do you not infer the excellency of animal 
bodies from observing the frame and fitness of their several parts, 
by which they mutually conspire to the well-being of each other as 
well as of the whole ? Do you not also observe a natural union 
and consent between animals of the same kind; and that even 
different kinds of animals have certain qualities and instincts 
whereby they contribute to the exercise, nourishment, and delight 
of each other ? Even the inanimate unorganized elements seem to 
have an excellence relative to each other. Where was the excel- 
lency of water, if it did not cause herbs and vegetables to spring 
from the earth, and put forth flowers and fruits ? And what would 
become of the beauty of the earth, if it was not warmed by the 
sun, moistened by water, and fanned by air? Throughout the 
whole system of the visible and natural world, do you not perceive 
a mutual connection and correspondence of parts ? And is it not 
from hence that you frame an idea of the perfection, and order, 
and beauty of nature ? 

Ale. All this I grant. 

Euph. And have not the Stoics heretofore said (who were no 
more bigots than you are), and did you not yourself say, this 
pattern of order was worthy of the imitation of rational agents ? 

Ale. I do not deny this to be true. 

Euph. Ought we not, therefore, to infer the same union, order, 
and regularity in the moral world that we perceive to be in the 
natural ? 

Ale. We ought. 

Euph. Should it not therefore seem to follow, that reasonable 
creatures were, as the philosophical Emperor ** observes, made one 
for another ; and, consequently, that man ought not to consider 

14 [M. Antonin. lib. iv.] AUTHOR. 

The First Dialogue. 57 

himself as an independent individual, whose happiness is not con- 
nected with Uhat of other men , but rather as a part of a whole, to 
the common good of which he ought to conspire, and order his 
ways and actions suitably, if he would live according to nature ? 

Ale. Supposing this to be true, what then ? 

Euph. Will it not follow that a wise man should consider and 
pursue his private good, with regard to, and in conjunction with 
that of other men ? In granting of which, you thought yourself 
guilty of an oversight. Though, indeed, the sympathy of pain and 
pleasure, and the mutual affections by which mankind are knit 
together have been always allowed a plain proof of this point : 
and though it was the constant doctrine of those who were 
esteemed the wisest and most thinking men among the ancients, 
as the Platonists, Peripatetics, and Stoics; to say nothing of 
Christians, whom you pronounce to be an unthinking, prejudiced 
sort of people. 

Alc.\ shall not dispute this point with you. 

Euph. Since, therefore, we are so far agreed, should it not seem 
to follow from the premises that the belief of a God, of a future 
state, and of moral duties are the only wise, right, and genuine 
principles of human conduct, in case they have a necessary con- 
nection with the well-being of mankind? This conclusion you 
have been led to by your own concessions, and by the analogy of 

Ale. I have been drawn into it step by step through several pre- 
liminaries, which I cannot well call to mind ; but one thing I 
observe, that you build on the necessary connection those principles 
have with the well-being of mankind, which is a point neither 
proved nor granted. 

Lys. This I take to Be a grand fundamental prejudice, as I doubt 
not, if I had time, I could make appear. But it is now late, and 
we will, if you think fit, defer this subject till to-morrow. 

Upon which motion of Lysicles, we put an end to our conver- 
sation, for that evening. 


I. Vulgar error, that vice is hurtful. 2. The benefit of drunkenness, gaming, and whoring. 
3. Prejudice against vice wearing off. 4. Its usefulness illustrated in the instances of 
Callicles and Telesilla. 5. The reasoning of Lysicles in behalf of vice examined. 

6. Wrong to punish actions, when the doctrines whence they flow are tolerated. 

7. Hazardous experiment of the minute philosophers. 8. Their doctrine of circulation 
and revolution. 9. Their seicse of a reformation. 10. Riches alone not the public 
weal. II. Authority of minute philosophers: their prejudice against religion. 
12. Effects of luxury: virtue, whether notional? 13. Pleasure of sense. 14. What 
sort of pleasure most natural to man. 15. Dignity of human nature. 1 6. Pleasure 
mistaken. 1 7. Amusements, misery, and cowardice of minute philosophers. 18. Rakes 
cannot reckon. 19. Abilities and success of minute* philosophers. 20. Happy effects of 
the minute philosophy in particular instances. 21. Their free notions about government. 
22. England the proper soil for minute philosophy. 23. The policy and address of its 
professors. 24. Merit of minute philosophers towards the public. 25. Their notions 
and character. 26. Their tendency towards popery and slavery. 

i. NEXT morning Alciphron and Lysicles said the weather was 
so fine they had a mind to spend the day abroad, and take a cold 
dinner under a shade in some pleasant part of the country. Where- 
upon, after breakfast, we went down to a beach about half a mile 
off; where we walked on the smooth sand, with the ocean on 
one hand, and on the other wild broken rocks, intermixed with 
shady trees and springs of water, till the sun began to be uneasy. 
We then withdrew into a hollow glade, between two rocks, where 
we had no sooner seated ourselves than Lysicles, addressing him- 
self to Euphranor, said : I am now ready to perform what I under- 
took last evening, which was to show there is nothing in that 
necessary connection which some men imagine between those 
principles you contend for, and the public good. I freely own 
that, if this question was to be decided by the authority of legis- 
lators or philosophers, it must go against us. For, those men 
generally take it for granted that Vice is pernicious to the public ; 
and that men cannot be kept from vice but by the fear of God, and 

15 In this Dialogue, the species of Utili- * private vices, public benefits ' popular 

tarianism defended by Mandeville (here among the men of pleasure of the time, 

represented by Lysicles) is discussed and who quoted Mandeville as an advocate for 

rejected j with its paradoxical formula the social utility of vice. 

The Second Dialogue. 59 

the sense of a Future State : whence they are induced to think the 
belief of such things necessary to the well-being of human-kind. 
This false notion hath prevailed for many ages in the world, and 
done an infinite deal of mischief, being in truth the cause of reli- 
gious establishments, and gaining the protection and encourage- 
ment of laws and magistrates to the clergy and their superstitions. 
Even some of the wisest among the ancients, who agreed with 
our sect in denying a Providence and the Immortality of the Soul, 
had nevertheless the weakness to lie under the common prejudice, 
that vice was hurtful to societies of men. But England hath of 
late produced great philosophers 16 , who Hkve undeceived the world, 
and proved to a demonstration that private vices are public 
benefits. This discovery was reserved to our times, and our sect 
hath the glory of it. 

Cri. It is possible soriie men of fine understanding might in 
former ages have had a glimpse of this important truth j but it may 
be presumed they lived in ignorant times and bigoted countries, 
which were not ripe for such a discovery. 

Lys. Men of narrow capacities and short sight, being able to 
see no further than one link in a chain of consequences, are 
shocked at small evils which attend upon vice. But those who 
can enlarge their view, and look through a long series of events, 
may behold happiness resulting from vice, and good springing out 
of evil in a thousand instances. To prove my point, I shall not 
trouble you with authorities, or far-fetched arguments, but bring you 
to plain matter of fact. Do but take a view of each particular 
vice, and trace it through its effects and consequences, and then 
you will clearly perceive the advantage it brings to the public. 

16 Mandeville, in his Fable of tie Bees ; from public happiness ; " or, lastly, " private 
or, Private Vices, Public Benefits, is here vices will probably flow from public pro- 
referred to. Cf. Berkeley's Discourse ad- sperity, through the present corruption of 
dressed to Magistrates, sect. 53, &c. ' It men." . . . Far be it from a candid writer 
is not,' says Dr. Hutcheson, in his reply to charge upon him [Mandeville] any one of 
to Mandeville, ' the interest of every writer these opinions more than another ; for, if we 
to free his words from ambiguity. "Pri- treat him fairly, and compare the several 
vate vices public benefits" may signify any parts of his works together, we shall find 
one of these five distinct propositions : no ground for such a charge.' (Remarks 
" private vices are themselves public bene- upon the Fable of the Bees.) See also Man- 
fits ; " or, " private vices naturally tend, as deville's Letter to Dion, pp. 36 38, in 
the direct and necessary means, to produce which he seems to adopt the third of the 
public happiness;" or, "private vices, by above propositions as his real meaning, and 
dexterous management of governors, may affects that by * happiness ' he intends te.nii 
be made to tend to public happiness ; " or, poral or earthly felicity only. 
" private vices naturally and necessarily flow 

60 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

a. Drunkenness 1 ?, for instance, is by your sober moralists thought 
a pernicious vice ; but it is for want of considering the good effects 
that flow from it. For, in the first place, it increases the malt tax v y 
a principal branch of his majesty's revenue, ai\d thereby promotes 
the safety, strength, and glory of the nation. Secondly, it employs 
a great number of hands, the brewer, the maltster, the ploughman, 
the dealer in hops, the smith, the carpenter, the brazier, the joiner, 
with all other artificers necessary to supply those enumerated with 
their respective instruments and utensils 1 7. All which advantages 
are procured from drunkenness in the vulgar way, by strong beer. 
Trjis point is so clear it will admit of no dispute. But, while you 
are forced to allow thus much, I foresee you are ready to object 
against drunkenness occasioned by wine and spirits, as exporting 
wealth into foreign countries. But do you not reflect on the 
number of hands which even this sets on work at home : the dis- 
tillers, the vintners, the merchants, the sailors, the shipwrights, 
with all those who are employed towards victualling and fitting 
out ships, which upon a nice computation will be found to include 
an incredible variety of trades and callings. Then, for freighting 
our ships to answer these foreign importations, all our manufac- 
turers throughout the kingdom are employed, the spinners, the 
weavers, the dyers, the wool-combers, the carriers, the packers. 
And the same may be said of many other manufacturers, as well as 
the woollen. And if it be further considered how many men are 
enriched by all the forementioned ways of trade and business, and 
the expenses of these men and their families, in all the several 
articles of convenient and fashionable living, whereby all sorts of 
trades and callings, not only at home but throughout' all parts 
wherever our commerce reaches, are kept in employment; you 
will be amazed at the wonderfully-extended scene of benefits which 
arises from the single vice of drunkenness, so much run down and 
declaimed against by all grave reformers. 

With as much judgment your half-witted folk are accustomed 
to censure gaming 18 . And indeed (such is the ignorance and folly 
of mankind) a gamester and a drunkard are thought no better than 
public nuisances, when in truth they do each in their way greatly 

17 See Fable of the Bees, 'Remark' G, 18 See Fable of (be Bees, 'Remark' E, 

where the author seeks to illustrate the on the social advantages of gambling, 
tendency of drinking to increase wealth. 

The Second Dialogue. 61 

conduce to the public benefit. If you look only on the surface 
and first appearance of things, you will no doubt think playing 
at cards a very idle and fruitless occupation. But dive deeper, 
and you shall perceive this idle amusement employs the card- 
maker, and he sets the paper-mills at work, by which the poor 
rag-man* is supported ; not to mention the builders and workers 
in wood and iron that are employed in erecting and furnishing 
those mills. Look still deeper, and you shall find that candles 
and chair-hire employ the industrious and the poor, who, by 
these means, come to be relieved by sharpers and gentlemen, who 
would not give one penny in charity. *But, you will say that 
many gentlemen and ladies are ruined byplay, without considering 
that what one man loses another gets, and that, consequently, as 
many are made as ruined: money changeth hands, and in this 
circulation the life of business and commerce consists. When 
money is spent, it is all one to the public who spends it. Sup- 
pose a fool of quality becomes the dupe of a man of mean 
birth and circumstance who has more wit? In this case what 
harm doth the public sustain ? Poverty is relieved, ingenuity is 
rewarded, the money stays at home, and has a lively circulation, 
the ingenious sharper being enabled to set up an equipage and 
spend handsomely, which cannot be done without employing 
a world of people. But you will perhaps object that a man 
reduced, by play may be put upon desperate courses, hurtful to the 
public. Suppose the worst, and that he turns highwaymen ; such 
men have a short life and a merry. While he lives, he spends, 
and for one that he robs makes twenty the better for his expense. 
And, when his time is come, a poor family may be relieved by 
fifty or a hundred pounds set upon his head. A vulgar eye looks 
on many a man as an idle or mischievous fellow, whom a true 
philosopher, viewing in another light, considers as of plea- 
sant occupation, who diverts himself, and benefits the public, and 
that with so much ease that he employs a multitude of men, and 
sets an infinite machine in motion, without knowing the good he 
does, or even intending to do any: which is peculiar to that 
gentleman-like way of doing good by vice. 

I was considering play, and that insensibly led me to the advan- 
tages which attend robbing on the highway. Oh the beautiful and 
never-enough-admired connection of vices! It would take too 

62 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

much time to show how they all hang together, and what an infinite 
deal of good takes its rise from every one of them. One word for 
a favourite vice, and I shall leave you to make out the rest yourself, 
by applying the same way of reasoning to all other vices. A poor 
girl, who might not have the spending of half-a-crown a week in 
what you call an honest way, no sooner hath the good fortune to be 
a kept-mistress, but she employs milliners, laundresses, tire-women, 
mercers, and a number of other trades, to the benefit of her 
country. It would be endless to trace and pursue every particular 
vice through its consequences and effects, and shew the vast 
advantage they all are of to the public. The true springs that 
actuate the great machine of commerce, and make a flourishing 
state, have been hitherto little understood. Your moralists and 
divines have for so many ages been corrupting the genuine sense 
of mankind, and filling their heads with such absurd principles, 
that it is in the power of few men to contemplate real life with an 
unprejudiced eye. And fewer still have sufficient parts and saga- 
city to pursue a long train of consequences, relations, and depen- 
dences, which must be done in order to form a just and entire 
notion of the public weal. But, as I said before, our sect hath 
produced men capable of these discoveries, who have displayed 
them in full light, and made them public for the benefit of their 

3. Oh! said Euphranor, who heard this discourse with great 
attention, you, Lysicles, are the very man I wanted, eloquent and 
ingenious, knowing in the principles of your sect, and willing to 
impart them. Pray tell me, do these principles find an easy 
admission in the world ? 

Lys. They do among ingenious men and people of fashion, 
though you will sometimes meet with strong prejudices against 
them in the middle sort, an effect of ordinary talents and mean 

Euph. I should wonder if men were not shocked at notions of 
such a surprising nature, so contrary to all laws, education, and 

Lyt. They would be shocked much more if it had not been for 
the skilful address of our philosophers, who, considering that most 
men are influenced by names rather than things, have introduced 

The Second Dialogue. 63 

a certain polite way of speaking, which lessens much of the 
abhorrence and prejudice towards vice. 

Euph. Explain me this. 

Lys. Thus, in our dialect, a vicious man is a man of pleasure, a 
sharper is one that plays the whole game, a lady is said to have an 
affair, a gentleman to be a gallant, a rogue in business to be one 
that knows the world. By this means, we have no such things as 
sots, debauchees, whores, rogues, or the like, in the beau monde, who 
may enjoy their vices without incurring disagreeable appellations. 

Euph. Vice then is, it seems, a fine thing with an ugly name. 

Lys. Be assured it is. 

Euph. It should seem then that Plato's fearing lest youth might 
be corrupted by those fables which represented the gods vicious 
was an effett of his weakness and ignorance 19 . 

Lys. It was, take my word for it. 

Euph. And yet Plato had kept good company, and lived in a 
court! And Cicero, who knew the world well, had a profound 
esteem for him 20 . 

Crl. I tell you, Euphranor, that Plato and Tully might perhaps 
make a figure in Athens or Rome : but, were they to revive in our 
days, they would pass but for underbred pedants, there being at 
most coffee-houses in London several able men who could con- 
vince them they knew nothing in, what they are valued so much 
for, morals and politics. 

Lys. How many long-headed men do I know, both in the court- 
end and the city, with five times Plato's sense, who care not one 
straw what notions their sons have of God or virtue. 

4. Crl. I can illustrate this doctrine of Lysicles by examples 
that will make you perceive its force. Cleophon, a minute 
philosopher, took strict care of his son's education, and entered 
him betimes in the principles of his sect. Callicles (that was his 
son's name), being a youth of parts, made a notable progress ; 
insomuch that before he became of age he killed his old covetous 
father with vexation, and ruined the estate he left behind him ; or, 
in other words, made a present of it to the public, spreading the 
dunghill collected by his ancestors over the face of the nation, and 

19 See Republic, B. II. * See Tusctil. Qucest. I. 17. 

64 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

making out of one overgrown estate several pretty fortunes for 
ingenious men, who live by the vices of the great. Telesilla, 
though a woman of quality and spirit, made no figure in the 
world, till she was instructed by her husband in the tenets of 
minute philosophy, which he wisely thought would prevent her 
giving anything in charity. From that time, she took a turn 
towards expensive diversions, particularly deep play, by which 
means she soon transferred a considerable share of his fortune to 
several acute men skilled in that mystery, who wanted it more, 
and circulated it quicker, than her husband would have done, who 
in, return hath got an heir to his estate, having never had a child 
before. The same Telesilla, who was good for nothing as long as 
she believed her catechism, now shines in all public places, is a 
lady of gallantry and fashion, and has, by her extravagant parade 
in lace and fine clothes, raised a spirit of expense in other ladies, 
very much to the public benefit, though it must be owned to the 
mortification of many frugal husbands. 

While Crito related these facts with a grave face, I could not 
forbear smiling, which Lysicles observing Superficial minds, said 
he, may perhaps find something to ridicule in these accounts j but 
all who are masters of a just way of thinking must needs see that 
those maxims, the benefit whereof is universal, and the damage 
only particular to private persons or families, ought to be en- 
couraged in a wise commonwealth. 

For my part, said Euphranor, I confess myself to be rather 
dafcZled and confounded than convinced by your reasoning ; which, 
as you observed yourself, taking in the connection of many distant 
points, requires great extent of thought to comprehend it. I must 
therefore intreat you to bear with my defects ; suffer me to take to 
pieces what is too big to be received at once. And, where I cannot 
keep pace with you, permit me to follow you step by step, as fast 
as I can. 

Lys. There is reason in what you say. Every one cannot 
suddenly take a long concatenation of arguments. 

Euph. Your several arguments seem to centre in this : that vice 
circulates money and promotes industry 21 , which cause a people to 
flourish. Is it not so ? 

Lys. It is. 

21 See Fable of tie Bees, * Remarks,* passim. 

The Second Dialogue. 65 

Euph. And the reason that vice produceth this effect, is, because 
it causeth an extravagant consumption ; which is the most bene- 
ficial to the manufactures, their encouragement consisting in a 
quick demand and high price. 

Lys. True. 

Euph. Hence you think a drunkard most beneficial to the brewer 
and the vintner, as causing a quick consumption of liquor, inas- 
much as he drinks more than other men ? 

Lys. Without doubt. 

Euph. Say, Lysicles, who drinks most, a sick man or a healthy ? 

Lys. A healthy. 

Euph. And which is healthier, a sober man or a drunkard ? 

Lys. A sober man. 

Euph. A sober man, therefore, in health may drink more than a 
drunkard when he is sick ? ' 

Lys. He may. 

Euph. What think you, will a man consume more meat and 
drink in a long life or a short one ? 

Lys. In a long. 

Euph. A sober healthy man, therefore, in a long life, may circu- 
late more money by eating and drinking, than a glutton or drunkard 
in a short one ? 

Lys. What then ? 

Euph. Why then it should seem that he may be more beneficial 
to the public, even in this way of eating and drinking. 

Lys. I shall never own that temperance is the way to promote 

Euph. But you will own sickness lessens, and death puts an end 
to all drinking? The same argument will hold, for aught I can 
see, with respect to, all other vices that impair men's health and 
shorten their lives. And, if we admit this, it will not be so clear 
a point that vice hath merit towards the public 22 . 

Lys. But, admitting that some artificers or traders might be as 
well encouraged by the sober men as the vicious ; what shall we 
say of those who subsist altogether by vice and vanity ? 

Euph. If such there are, may they not be otherwise employed 
without loss to the public? Tell me, Lysicles, is there anything 

22 See Hutcheson's Remarks upon tbe Fable oftbeBees, p. 6 1, where similar reasoning 
is employed. 


66 Alciphron> or the Minute Philosopher: 

in the nature of vice, as such, that renders it a public blessing, 
or is it only the consumption it occasions ? 

Lys. I have already shewn how it benefits the nation by the 
consumption of its manufactures. 

Euph. And you have granted that a long and healthy life con- 
sumes more than a short and sickly one ; and you will not deny 
that many consume more than one ? Upon the whole then, com- 
pute and say, which is most likely to promote the industry of his 
countrymen, a virtuous married man with a healthy numerous 
offspring, and who feeds and clothes the orphans in his neigh- 
bourhood, or a fashionable rake about town ? I would fain know 
whether money spent innocently doth not circulate as well as 
that spent upon vice ? And, if so, whether by your own rule it 
doth not benefit the public as much ? 

Lys. What I have proved, I proved plainly, and there is no 
need of more words about it. 

Euph. You seem to me to have proved nothing, unless you 
can make it out that it is impossible to spend a fortune inno- 
cently. I should think the public weal of a nation consists in 
the number and good condition of its inhabitants; have you 
anything to object to in this ? 

Lys. I think not. 

Euph. To this end which would most conduce, the employing 
men in open air and manly exercise, or in a sedentary business 
within doors ? 

Lys. The former, I suppose. 

Euph. Should it not seem, therefore, that building, gardening, 
and agriculture would employ men more usefully to the public 
than if tailors, barbers, perfumers, distillers, and such arts were 
multiplied ? 

Lys. All this I grant; but it makes against you. For, what 
moves men to build and plant but vanity, and what is vanity 
but vice ? 

Euph. But, if a man should do those things for his convenience 
or pleasure, and in proportion to his fortune, without a foolish 
ostentation, or overrating them beyond their due value, they would 
not then be the effect of vice; and how do you know but this 
may be the case ? 

Cri. One thing I know, that the readiest way to quicken that 

The Second Dialogue. 67 

sort of industry, and employ carpenters, masons, smiths, and all 
such trades, would be to put in practice the happy hint of a 
celebrated minute philosopher , who, by profound thinking, has 
discovered that biyning the city of London would be 'no such 
bad action as silly prejudiced people might possibly imagine ; 
inasmuch as it would produce a quick circulation of property, 
transferring it from the rich to the poor, and employing a great 
number of artificers of all kinds. This, at least, cannot be denied, 
that it hath opened a new way of thinking to our incendiaries, 
of which the public hath of late begun to reap the benefit. 
Euph. I cannot sufficiently admire this ingenious thought. 

6. But methinks it would be dangerous to make it public. 

Cri. Dangerous to whom ? 

Euph. In the first place *to the publisher. 

Cri. That is a mistake; for the notion hath been published 
and met with due applause, in this most wise and happy age 
of free-thinking, free-speaking, free-writing, and free-acting. 

Euph. How may a man then publish and practise such things 
with impunity ? 

Cri. To speak the truth, I am not so clear as to the practical 
part. An unlucky accident now and then befals an ingenious 
man. The minute philosopher Magirus, being desirous to benefit 
the public, by circulating an estate possessed by a near relation 
who had not the heart to spend it, soon convinced himself, upon 
these principles, that it would be a very worthy action to dispatch 
out of the way such a useless fellow, to whom he was next 
heir. But, for this laudable attempt, he had the misfortune to 
be hanged by an underbred judge and jury. Could anything be 
more unjust ? 

Euph. Why unjust ? 

Cri. Is it not unjust to punish actions, when the principles 
from which they directly follow are tolerated and applauded by 
the public? Can anything be more inconsistent than to con- 
demn in practice what is approved in speculation ? Truth is one 
and the same ; it being impossible a thing should be practically 
wrong and speculatively right. Thus much is certain, Magirus 

23 Mandeville, who refers to this passage in his Letter to Dion, p. 4. 
F 3 

68 Alcipkron y or the Minute Philosopher : 

was perfect master of all this theory, and argued most acutely 
about it with a friend of mine, a little before he did the fact 
for which he died. 

Lys. The best of it is the world every day g^ws wiser. 

O/. You mistake, Euphranor, if you think the minute philo- 
sophers idle theorists ; they are men of practical views. 

Euph. As much as I love liberty, I should be afraid to live 
among such people ; it would be, as Seneca somewhere expresseth 
it, in tibertate beltis ac tyrannis s&viore. 

Lys. What do you mean by quoting Plato and Seneca? Can 
you imagine a free-thinker is to be influenced by the authority 
of such old-fashioned writers ? 

Euph. You, Lysicles, and your friend, have often quoted to 
me ingenious moderns, profound fine gentlemen, with new names 
of authors in the minute philosophy, to whose merits I am a 
perfect stranger. Suffer me in my turn to cite such authorities 
as I know, and have passed for many ages upon the world. 

7. But, authority apart, what do you say to experience? My 
observation can reach as far as a private family ; and some wise 
men have thought a family may be considered as a small king- 
dom, or a kingdom as a great family. Do you admit this to 
be true ? 

Lys. If I say^j, you will make an inference; and if I say no y 
you will demand a reason. The best way is to say nothing at 
all. There is, I see, no end of answering. 

Eufh. If you give up the point you undertook to prove, there 
is an end at once : but, if you hope to convince me, you must 
answer my questions, and allow me the liberty to argue and 

Lys. Well, suppose I admit that a kingdom may be considered 
as a great family. 

Euph. I shall ask you then, whether ever you knew private 
families thrive by those vices you think so beneficial to the 
public ? 

Lys. Suppose I have not. 

Euph. Might not a man therefore, by a parity of reason, suspect 
their being of that benefit to the public ? 

Lys. Fear not ; the next age will thrive and flourish. 

The Second Dialogue. 69 

Euph. Pray tell me, Lysicles ; suppose you saw a fruit of a new 
untried kind; would you recommend it to your own family to 
make a full meal of? 

Lys. I would not. 

Euph. Why then would you try upon your own country these 
maxims which were never admitted in any other ? 

Lys. The experiment must begin somewhere; and we are 
resolved our own country shall have the honour and advantage 
of it. 

Euph. O Lysicles! hath not old England subsisted for many 
ages without the help of your notions ? 

Lys. She has. 

Euph. And made some figure ? 

Lys. I grant it. . 

Euph. Why then should you make her run the risk of a new 
experiment, when it is certain she may do without it ? 

Lys. But we would make her do better. We would produce 
a change in her that never was seen in any nation. 

Euph. Sallust observes 24 that a little before the downfall of the. 
Roman greatness avarice (the effect of luxury) had erased the 
good old principles of probity and justice, had produced a contempt 
for religion, and made everything venal; while ambition bred 
dissimulation, and caused men to unite in clubs and parties, not 
from honourable motives, but narrow and interested views. The 
same historian observes'" of that great free-thinker Catiline, that 
he made it his business to insinuate himself into the acquaintance 
of young men, whose minds, unimproved by years and expe- 
rience, were more easily seduced. I know not how it happens, 
but these passages have occurred to my thoughts more than once 
during this conversation. 

Lys. Sallust was a sententious pedant. 

Euph. But consult any historian, look into any writer. See, 
for instance, what Xenophon and Livy say of Sparta and Rome, 
and then tell me if vice be not the likeliest way to ruin and 
enslave a people. 

Lys. When a point is clear by its own evidence, I never think 
it worth while to consult old authors about it. 

* Catilina, 10. * Ibid > l6 - 

70 AlciphroHj or the Minute Philosopher: 

Crl. It requires much thought and delicate observation to go 
to the bottom of things. But one who hath come at truth with 
difficulty can impart it with ease. I will, therefore, Euphranor, 
explain to you in three words (what none of your old writers 
ever dreamt of) the true cause of ruin to those states. You must 
know that vice and virtue, being opposite and contradictory 
principles, both working at once in a state, will produce contrary 
effects, which intestine discord must needs tend to the disso- 
lution and ruin of the whole. But it is the design of our 
minute philosophers, by making men wicked upon principle, a 
thing unknown to the ancients, so to weaken and destroy the 
force of virtue that its effects shall not be felt in the public. 
In which case, vice being uncontrolled, without let or impediment 
of principle, pure and genuine, without allay of virtue, the nation 
must doubtless be very flourishing and triumphant. 

Euph. Truly, a noble scheme ! 

Cr/. And in a fair way to take effect. For, our young pro- 
ficients in the minute philosophy, having, by a rare felicity of 
education, no tincture of bigotry or prejudice, do far outgo the 
old standers and professors of the sect; who, though men of 
admirable parts, yet, having had the misfortune to be imbued 
in their childhood with some religious notions, could never after 
get entirely rid of them; but still retain some small grains of 
conscience and superstition, which are a check upon the noblest 
genius. In proof of this, I remember that the famous minute 
philosopher, old Demodicus, came one day from conversation 
upon business with Timander, a young gentleman of the same 
sect, full of astonishment. I am surprised, said he, to see so 
young, and withal so complete a villain; and, such was the 
force of prejudice, spoke of Timander with abhorrence, not con- 
sidering that he was only the more egregious and profound 
philosopher of the two. 

8. Euph. Though much may be hoped from the unprejudiced 
education of young gentlemen, yet it seems we are not to expect 
a settled and entire happiness, before vice reigns pure and un- 
mixed : till then, much is to be feared from the dangerous struggle 
between vice and virtue, which may perchance overturn and 
dissolve this government, as it hath done others. 

Lyf. No matter for that, if a better comes in its place. We 

The Second Dialogue. 71 

have cleared the land of all prejudices towards government or 
constitution, and made them fly like other phantasms before the 
light of reason and good sense. Men who think deeply cannot 
see any reason why power should not change hands as 'well as 
property; or why the fashion of a government should not be 
changed as easy as that of a garment. The perpetual circulating 
and revolving of wealth and power, no matter through what or 
whose hands, is that which keeps up life and spirit in a state 26 . 
Those who are even slightly read in our philosophy, know that 
of all prejudices, the silliest is an attachment to forms. 

Cri. To say no more upon so clear a point, the overturning ,of 
a government may be justified upon the same principles as the 
burning a town, would produce parallel effects, and equally con- 
tribute to the public good. In both cases, the natural springs 
of action are forcibly exerted; and, in this general industry, what 
one loses another gets, a quick circulation of wealth and power 
making the sum total to flourish. 

Euph. And do the minute philosophers publish these things 
to the world? 

Lys. It must be confessed our writers proceed in Politics with 
greater caution than they think necessary with regard to 

Cri. But those things plainly follow from their principles, and 
are to be admitted for the genuine doctrine of the sect, expressed 
perhaps with more freedom and perspicuity than might be thought 
prudent by those who would manage the public, or not offend 
weak brethren. 

Euph. And pray, is there not need of caution, a rebel or incen- 
diary being characters that many men have a prejudice against ? 

Lys. Weak people of all ranks have a world of absurd prejudices. 

Euph. But the better sort, such as statesmen and legislators ; do 
you think they have not the same indisposition towards admitting 
your principles ? 

Lyt. Perhaps they may ; but the reason is plain. 

Cri. This puts me in mind of that ingenious philosopher, the 
gamester Glaucus, who used to say, that statesmen and law-givers 
may keep a stir about right and wrong, just and unjust, but that, 

* See Fable oftbe Bees, 'Remarks' G, I, L, N. 

72 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

in truth, property of every kind had so often passed from the right 
owners by fraud and violence that it was now to be considered as 
lying on the common, and with equal right belonged to every one 
that could seize it. r 

Eufh. What are we to think then of laws and regulations 
relating to right and wrong, crimes and duties? 

Lys. They serve to bind weak minds, and keep the vulgar 
in awe: but no sooner doth a true genius arise, but he breaks 
his way to greatness through all the trammels of duty, conscience, 
religion, law j to all which he sheweth himself infinitely superior. 

9. Eufh. You are, it seems, for bringing about a thorough 
reformation ? 

Lys. As to what is commonly called the Reformation, I could 
never see how or wherein the world was the better for it. It is 
much the same as Popery, with this difference, that it is the more 
prude-like and disagreeable thing of the two. A noted writer of 
ours makes it too great a compliment, when he computes the 
benefit of hooped petticoats to be nearly equal to that of the 
Reformation. Thorough reformation is thorough liberty. Leave 
nature at full freedom to work her own way, and all will be 
well. This is what we aim at, and nothing short of this can 
come up to our principles. 

Crito, who is a zealous protestant, hearing these words, could 
not refrain. The worst effect of the Reformation, said he, was 
the rescuing wicked men from a darkness which kept them in 
awe. This, as it hath proved, was holding out light to robbers 
and murderers. Light in itself is good, and the same light which 
shews a man the folly of superstition, might shew him the truth 
of religion, and the madness of atheism. But, to make use of 
light only to see the evils on one side, and never to see, but 
to run blindly upon the worst extreme this is to make the best 
of things produce evil, in the same sense as you prove the worst 
of things to produce good, to wit, accidentally or indirectly : and, 
by the same method of arguing, you may prove that even diseases 
v are useful: but whatever benefit seems to accrue to the public, 
either from disease of mind or body, is not their genuine offspring, 
and may be obtained without them. 

Lysicles was a little disconcerted by the affirmative air of Crito; 

The Second Dialogue. 


but, after a short pause, replied briskly, That to contemplate the 
public good was not every one's talent. 

True, said Euphranor, I question whether every one can frame 
a notion of the public good, much less judge of the means to 
promote it. 

10. But you, Lysicles, who are master of this subject, will 
be pleased to inform me, whether the public good of a nation 
doth not imply the particular good of its individuals ? 

Lys. It doth. 

Euph. And doth not the good or happiness of a man consist in 
having both soul and body sound and in good condition, enjoying 
those things which their respective natures require, and free from 
those things which are odious or hurtful to them ? 

Lys. I do not deny all tliis to be true. 

Euph. Now, it should seem worth while to consider, whether the 
regular decent life of a virtuous man may not as much conduce to 
this end as the mad sallies of intemperance and debauchery. 

Lys. I will acknowledge that a nation may merely subsist, or be 
kept alive, but it is impossible it should flourish without the aid 
of vice. To produce a quick circulation of traffic and wealth in 
a state, there must be exorbitant and irregular motions in the 
appetites and passions w. 

Euph. The more people a nation contains, and the happier 
those people are, the more that nation may be said to flourish. 
I think we are agreed in this point. 

Lys. We are. 

Euph. You allow then that riches are not an ultimate end, but 
should only be considered as the means to procure happiness ? 

Lys. I do. 

1 The worst of all the multitude 
Did something for the common good ; 
This was the State's-craft that main- 

The whole, of which each part com- 

This, as in music harmony 
Made jarrings in the main agree ; 
Parties directly opposite 
Assist each other, as 'twere for spite ; 
And temperance with sobriety 
Serve drunkenness and gluttony. 

The root of evil, avarice, 
That damned, ill-natur'd, baneful vice, 
Was slave to prodigality, 
That noble sin ; whilst luxury 
Employed a million of the poor, 
And odious pride a million more ; 
Envy itself, and vanity, 
Were ministers of industry/ &c. 

The Grumbling' Hive. 
See relative * Remarks* in Fable of tht 

74 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Euph. It seems that means cannot be of use without our 
knowing the end, and how to apply them to it? 

Lys. It seems so. 

Euph." Will it not follow that in order Jo make a nation 
flourish it is not sufficient to make it wealthy, without knowing 
the true end and happiness of mankind, and how to apply wealth 
towards attaining that end. In proportion as these points are 
known and practised, I think the nation should be likely to 
flourish. But, for a people who neither know nor practise them, 
to gain riches seems to me the same advantage that it would be 
for a sick man to come at plenty of meat and drink, which 
he could not use but to his hurt. 

Lys. This is mere sophistry ; it is arguing without persuading. 
Look into common life; examine the pursuits of men: have 
a due respect for the consent of the world ; and you will soon 
be convinced that riches alone are sufficient to make a nation 
flourishing and happy. Give them riches and they will make 
themselves happy, without that.political invention, that trick of 
statesmen and philosophers, called virtue. 

ii. Euph. Virtue then, in your account, is a trick of statesmen? 

Lys. It is. 

Euph. Why then do your sagacious sect betray and divulge that 
trick or secret of state, which wise men have judged necessary for 
the good government of the world ? 

Lysicles hesitating, Crito made answer, That he presumed it 
was because their sect, being wiser than all other wise men, dis- 
dained to see the world governed by wrong maxims, and would set 
all things on a right bottom. 

Euph. Thus much is certain. If we look into all institutions 
of government, and the political writings of such as have hereto- 
fore passed for wise men, we shall find a great regard for virtue. 

Lys. You shall find a strong tincture of prejudice; but, as I 
said before, consult the multitude if you would find nature and 

Euph. But, among country gentlemen, and farmers, and the 
better sort of tradesmen, is not virtue a reputable thing ? 

Lys. You pick up authorities among men of low life and vile 

The Second Dialogue. 75 

Euph. Perhaps we ought to pay a decent respect to the authority 
of minute philosophers. 

Lys. And I would fain know, whose authority should be more 
considered than th^t of those gentlemen, who are alone above 
prejudice, and think for themselves. 

Euph. How doth it appear that you are the only unprejudiced 
part of mankind? May not a minute philosopher, as well as 
another man, be prejudiced in favour of the leaders of his sect ? 
May not an atheistical education prejudice towards atheism? 
What should hinder a man's being prejudiced against religion, 
as well as for it ? Or can you assign any reason why an attach- 
ment to pleasure, interest, vice, or vanity, may not be supposed 
to prejudice men against virtue ? 

Lys. This is pleasant. What! suppose those very men in- 
fluenced by prejudice who *are always disputing against it, whose 
constant aim it is to detect and demolish prejudices of all 
kinds ! 

Except their own, replied Crito; for, you must pardon me if 
I cannot help thinking they have some small prejudice, though 
not in favour of virtue. 

12. I observe, Lysicles, that you allowed to Euphranor^, the 
greater number of happy people there are in a state, the more 
that state may be said to flourish : it follows, therefore, that such 
methods as multiply inhabitants are good, and such as diminish 
them are bad, for the public. And one would think nobody need 
be told, that the strength of a state consists more in the number 
and sort of people than in anything else. But, in proportion as 
vice and luxury, those public blessings encouraged by this minute 
philosophy, prevail among us, fewer are disposed to marry, too 
many being diverted by pleasure, disabled by disease, or fright- 
ened by expense. Nor doth vice only thin a nation, but also 
debaseth it by a puny degenerate race. I might add that it 
is ruinous to our manufactures ; both as it makes labour dear, 
and thereby enables our more frugal neighbours to undersell us : 
and also as it diverts the lower sort of people from honest callings 
to wicked projects. If these and such considerations were taken 

88 Cf. sect. 10. 

7<> sucipnron, or me minute ffttlosopfter : 

into account, I believe it would be evident to any man in his 
senses that the imaginary benefits of vice bear no proportion to 
the solid real woes that attend it. 

Lysicles, upon this, shook his head, and smiled at Crito, with- 
out vouchsafing any answer. After which, addressing himself 
to Euphranor, There cannot, said he, be a stronger instance 
of prejudice than that a man should at this time of day pre- 
serve a reverence for that idol Virtue, a thing so effectually 
exposed and exploded by the most knowing men of the 
age, who have shewn that a man is a mere engine, played 
upon and driven about by sensible objects ; and that moral 
virtue is only a name, a notion, a chimera, an enthusiasm, 
or at best a fashion, uncertain and changeable, like all other 

Euph. What do you think, Lysicles, of health ; doth it depend 
on fancy and caprice, or is it something real in the bodily com- 
position of a man ? 

Lys. Health is something real, which results from the right 
constitution and temperature of the organs and the fluids cir- 
culating through them. 

Euph. This you say is health of body ? 

Lys. It is. 

Euph. And may we not suppose a healthy constitution of soul, 
when the notions are right, the judgments true, the will regular, 
the passions and appetites directed to their proper objects, and 
confined within due bounds ? This, in regard to the soul, seems 
what health is to the body. And the man whose mind is so 
constituted, is he not properly called virtuous ? And to produce 
this healthy disposition in the minds of his countrymen, should not 
every good man employ his endeavours ? If these things have any 
appearance of truth, as to me they seem to have, it will not then 
be so clear a point that virtue is a mere whim or fashion, as 
you are pleased to represent it I must own something unex- 
pectedly, after what had been discoursed in last evening's con- 
ference, which, if you would call to mind, might perhaps save both 
of us some trouble. 

Lys. Would you know the truth, Euphranor? I must own 
I have quite forgot all your discourse about virtue, duty, and all 
such points, which, being of an airy notional nature, are apt to 

The Second Dialogue. 77 

vanish, and leave no trace on a mind accustomed only to receive 
impression from realities. 

13. Having heard these words, Euphranor looked at Cri'to and 
me, and said, smiling, I have mistaken my part; it was mine 
to learn, and his to instruct. Then, addressing himself to 
Lysicles, Deal faithfully, said he, and let me know, whether 
the public benefit of vice be in truth that which makes you plead 
for it? 

Lys. I love to speak frankly what I think. Know then that 
private interest is the first and principal consideration with 
philosophers of our sect. Now of all interests pleasure is that 
which hath the strongest charms, and no pleasures like those 
which are heightened and enlivened by licence. Herein consists 
the peculiar excellency of our principles, that they shew people 
how to serve their country by diverting themselves, causing the 
two streams of public spirit and self-love to unite and run in the 
same channel. I have told you already that I admit a nation 
might subsist by the rules of virtue. But, give me leave to say, 
it will barely subsist, in a dull joyless insipid state ; whereas the 
sprightly excesses of vice inspire men with joy. And where 
particulars rejoice, the public, which is made up of particulars, 
must do so too : that is, the public must be happy. This I take 
to be an irrefragable argument. But, to give you its full force, 
and make it as plain as possible, I will trace things from their 
original. Happiness 29 is the end to which created beings naturally 
tend 29 ; but we find that all animals, whether men or brutes, do 
naturally and principally pursue real pleasure of sense ; which is 
therefore to be thought their supreme good, their true end and 
happiness. It is for this men live ; and whoever understands life 
must allow that man to enjoy the top and flower of it who hath 
a quick sense of pleasure, and withal spirit, skill, and fortune 
sufficient to gratify every appetite and every taste. Niggards and 
fools will envy or traduce such a one because they cannot equal 
him. Hence all that sober trifling in disparagement of what 
every one would be master of if he could a full freedom and 
unlimited scope of pleasure. 

29 See Aristotle's Nicbom. Etbics, I. 47, X. I 7 ; Cicero, De Finibus, I. 1 1. 

78 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Euph. Let me see whether I understand you. Pleasure of sense, 
you say, is the chief pleasure ? 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. And this would be cramped and diminished by virtue ? 

Lys. It would. 

Euph. Tell me, Lysicles, is pleasure then at the height when 
the appetites are satisfied ? 

Lys. There is then only an indolence, the lively sense of 
pleasure being past. 

Euph. It should seem, therefore, that the appetites must be 
always craving, to preserve pleasure alive ? 

Lys. That is our sense of the matter. 

Euph. The Greek philosopher, therefore, was in the right, who 
considered the body of a man of pleasure as a leaky vessel, 
always filling and never full. 

Lys. You may divert yourself with allegories, if you please. 
But all the while ours is literally the true taste of nature. Look 
throughout the universe, and you shall find birds and fishes, beasts 
and insects, all kinds of animals, with which the creation swarms, 
constantly engaged by instinct in the pursuit of sensible pleasure. 
And shall man alone be the grave fool who thwarts, and crosses, 
and subdues his appetites, whilst his fellow-creatures do all most 
joyfully and freely indulge them ? 

Euph. How! Lysicles! I thought that being governed by the 
senses, appetites, and passions was the most grievous slavery; 
and that the proper business of free-thinkers, or philosophers, 
had been to set men from the power of ambition, avarice, and 
sensuality ! 

Lys. You mistake the point. We make men relish the world, 
attentive to their interests, lively and luxurious in their pleasures, 
without fear or restraint either from God or man. We despise 
those preaching writers, who used to disturb or cramp the 
pleasures and amusements of human life. We hold that a wise 
man who meddles with business doth it altogether for his interest, 
and refers his interest to his pleasure. With us it is a maxim, 
that a man should seize the moments as they fly. Without love, 
and wine, and play, and late hours we hold life not to be worth 
living. I grant, indeed, that there is something gross and ill-bred 
in the vices of mean men, which the genteel philosopher abhors. 

The Second Dialogue. 79 

Cri. But to cheat, whore, betray, get drunk, do all these things 
decently, this is true wisdom, and elegance of taste. 

14. Euph. To me, who have been used to another way of 
thinking, this new philosophy seems difficult to digest. I must, 
therefore, beg leave to examine its principles with the same 
freedom that you do those of other sects. 

Lys. Agreed. 

Euph. You say, if 1 mistake not, that a wise man pursues only 
his private interest, and that this consists in sensual pleasure; 
for proof whereof you appeal to nature. Is not this what you 
advance ? 

Lys. It is. 

Euph. You conclude, therefore, that, as other animals are guided 
by natural instinct, man t6o ought to follow the dictates of sense 
and appetite ? 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. But in this do you not argue as if man had only sense 
and appetite for his guides on which supposition there might be 
truth in what you say ? But what if he hath intellect, reason, 
a higher instinct and a nobler life 30 ? If this be the case, and you, 
being man, live like a brute, is it not the way to be defrauded 
of your true happiness ? to be mortified and disappointed ? Con- 
sider most sort of brutes, you shall perhaps find them have a 
greater share of sensual happiness than man. 

Lys. To our sorrow we do. This hath made several gentlemen 
of our sect envy brutes, and lament the lot of human-kind. 

Cri. It was a consideration of this sort which inspired Erotylus 
with the laudable ambition of wishing himself a snail, upon 
hearing of certain particularities discovered in that animal by 
a modern virtuoso. 

Euph. Tell me, Lysicles, if you had an inexhaustible fund of 
gold and silver, should you envy another for having a little more 
copper than you ? 

Lys. I should not. 

Euph. Are not reason, imagination, and sense, faculties differ- 
ing in kind, and in rank higher one than another ? 

Lys. I do not deny it. 

80 See Butler's Sermons, Preface. 

8o Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Euph. Their acts therefore differ in kind ? 

Lys. They do. 

Euph. Consequently the pleasures perfective of those acts are 
also different. 

Lys. They are. 

Euph. You admit, therefore, three sorts of pleasure : pleasure 
of reason, pleasure of imagination, and pleasure of sense. 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. And, as it is reasonable to think the operation of the 
highest and noblest faculty to be attended with the highest 
pleasure, may we not suppose the two former to be as gold or 
silver, and the latter only as copper ? whence it should seem to 
follow that man need not envy or imitate a brute. 

Lys. And, nevertheless, there are very ingenious men who do. 
And surely every one may be allowed* to know what he wants, 
and wherein his true happiness consists. 

Euph. Is it not plain that different animals have different 
pleasures? Take a hog from his ditch or dunghill, lay him on 
a rich bed, treat him with sweetmeats, and music, and perfumes. 
All these things will be no entertainment to him. Do not a bird, 
a beast, a fish amuse themselves in various manners, insomuch 
that what is pleasing to one may be death to another ? Is it ever 
seen that one of those animals quits its own element or way of 
living, to adopt that of another? and shall man quit his own 
nature to imitate a brute ? 

Lys. But sense is not only natural to brutes; is it not also 
natural to man ? 

Euph. It is, but with this difference: it maketh the whole of 
a brute, but is the lowest part or faculty of a human soul. The 
nature of anything is peculiarly that which doth distinguish it 
from other things, not what it hath in common with them. Do 
you allow this to be true ? 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. And is not reason that which makes the principal dif- 
ference between man and other animals ? 

Lys. It is. 

Euph. Reason, therefore, being the principal part of our nature, 
whatever is most reasonable should seem most natural to man. 
Must we not therefore think rational pleasures more agreeable 

The Second Dialogue. 81 

to human-kind than those of sense ? Man and beast, having dif- 
ferent natures, seem to have different faculties, different enjoy- 
ments, and different sorts of happiness. You can easily conceive, 
that the sort of life which makes the happiness of a mole or a bat 
would be a very wretched one for an eagle. And may you not as 
well conceive that the happiness of a brute can never constitute 
the true happiness of a man? A beast, without reflection or 
remorse, without foresight, or appetite of immortality, without 
notion of vice or virtue, or order, or reason, or knowledge ! What 
motive, what gfounds, can there be for bringing down man, in 
whom are all these things, to a level with such a creature ? What 
merit, what ambition, in the minute philosopher to make such 
an animal a guide or rule for human life 131 ? 

It is strange, Euphranor, that one who admits freedom 
of thought, as you do, should yet be such a slave to prejudice. 
You.^till talk of order and virtue, as of real things, as if our 
philosophers had never demonstrated that they have no founda- 
tion in nature, and are only the effects of education. 

I know, said Crito, how the minute philosophers are accustomed 
to demonstrate this point. They consider the animal nature of 
man, or man so far forth as he is animal 3 ' 2 ; and it must be owned 
that, considered in that light, he hath no sense of duty, no notion 
of virtue. He, therefore, who should look for virtue among mere 
animals, or human-kind as such, would look in the wrong place. 
But that philosopher who is attentive only to the animal part of 
his being, and raiseth his theories from the very dregs of our 
species, might probably, upon second thoughts, find himself 

Look you, Crito, said Lysicles, my argument is with Euphra- 
nor; to whom addressing his discourse: I observe, said he, that 
you stand much upon the dignity of human nature. This thing 
of dignity is an old worn-out notion, which depends on other 
notions, old and stale, and worn-out, such as an immaterial 
spirit, and a ray derived from the Divinity. But in these days 
men of sense make a jest of all this grandeur and dignity ; and 

1 31 Cf. Dial. I. sect. 14, on the notions and Reason, because agreeable to, or developed 
beliefs which are to be esteemed natural from, its constituent elements. 
to man which constitute his Practical ** Cf. sect, 14. 


82 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

many there are would gladly exchange their share of it for the 
repose, and freedom, and sensuality of a brute. But comparisons 
are odious ; waiving therefore all inquiryxoncerning the respective 
excellencies of man and beast, and whether it is beneath a man 
to follow or imitate brute animals, in judging of the chief good, 
and conduct of life and manners, I shall be content to appeal to 
the authority of men themselves for the truth of my notions. 
Do but look abroad into the world, and ask the common run of 
men, whether pleasure of sense be not the only true, solid, sub- 
stantial good of their kind ? 

Euph. But might not 'the same vulgar sort of men prefer a piece 
of sign-post painting to one of Raphael's, or a Grub-street ballad 
to an ode of Horace ? Is there not a real difference between good 
and bad writing? 

Lys. There is. 

Euph. And yet you will allow there must be a maturity and 
improvement of understanding to discern this difference, which 
doth not make it therefore less real ? 

Lys. I will. 

Euph. In the same manner, what should hinder but there may be 
in nature a true difference between vice and virtue, although it 
require some degree of reflection and judgment to observe it ? In 
order to know whether a thing be agreeable to the rational nature 
of man, it seems one should rather observe arid consult those who 
have most employed or improved their reason. 

Lys. Well, I shall not insist on consulting the common herd of 
mankind. From the ignorant and gross vulgar, I might myself 
appeal in many cases to men of rank and fashion. 

Euph. They are a sort of men I have not the honour to know 
much of by my own observation. But I remember a remark of 
Aristotle, who was himself a courtier, and knew them well. 
c Virtue/ saith he 33 , c and good sense are not the property of high 
birth or a great estate. Nor if they who possess these advantages, 
wanting a taste for rational pleasure, betake themselves to those 
of sense, ought we therefore to esteem them eligible, any more 

38 [Ethic, ad Nicom. lib. x. c. vi.] Au- pleasures to which the great devote their 

THOR. The higher attributes of man are leisure really constitute happiness. Cf.l^tcs, 

not necessarily involved in rank ; and it I. 5. 
is an illusion of the imagination that the 

The Second Dialogue. 83 

than we should the toys and pastimes of children, because they 
seem so to them ?' And indeed one may be allowed to question 
whether the truest estimate of things was to be expected from 
a mind intoxicated with luxury, and dazzled with the splendour of 
high living. 

Cum stupet insanis acies fulgoribus, et cum 
Acclinis falsis animus meliora recusat. HOR. 

Crito upon this observed that he knew an English nobleman who 
in the prime of life professeth a liberal art, and is the first man of 
his profession in the world, and that he was very sure he had more 
pleasure from the exercise of that elegant art than from any 
sensual enjoyment within the power of one of the largest fortunes 
and most bountiful spirits in Great Britain 34 . 

16. Lys. But why need we have recourse to the judgment of 
other men in so plain a case ? I appeal to your own breast, con- 
sult that, and then say if sensible pleasure be not the chief good 
of man. 

Euph. I, for my part, have often thought those pleasures which 
are highest in the esteem of sensualists, so far from being the 
chiefest good, that it seemed doubtful, upon the whole, whether 
they were any good at all, any more than the mere removal of 
pain. Are not our wants and appetites uneasy ? 

Lys. They are. 

Eufh. Doth not sensual pleasure consist in satisfying them ? 

Lys. It doth. 

Euph. But the cravings are tedious, the satisfaction momentary. 
Is it not so ? 

Lys. It is ; but what then ? 

Euph. Why then it should seem that sensual pleasure is but 
a short deliverance from long pain. A long avenue of uneasiness 
leads to a point of pleasure, which ends in disgust or remorse. 

Cri. And he who pursues this igvis fatuus imagines himself 
a philosopher and free-thinker. 

34 The allusion is probably to Richard in Stock's Life, * conceived a high esteem 
Boyle, third Earl of Burlington, and fourth for him on account of his great taste and 
Earl of Cork, who had a passion for archi- skill in architecture, an art of which his 
tecture, and who planned various buildings lordship was an excellent judge and patron, 
in London and elsewhere. Pope introduced and which Mr. Berkeley had made his par- 
Berkeley, on his return from the Continent, ticular study while in Italy/ 
to Lord Burlington, who, as we are told 

G 2 

84 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Lys. Pedants are governed by words and notions, while the 
wiser men of pleasure follow fact, nature, and sense. 

Cri. But wh^t if notional pleasures should in fact prove the most 
real and lasting ? Pure pleasures of reason and imagination neither 
hurt the health, nor waste the fortune, nor gall the conscience. 
By them the mind is long entertained without loathing or satiety. 
On the other hand, a notion (which with you it seems passeth for 
nothing) often embitters the most lively sensual pleasures ; which 
at bottom will be found also to depend upon notion more than 
perhaps you imagine : it being a vulgar remark, that those things 
are more enjoyed by hope and foretaste of the soul than by posses- 
sion. Thus much is yielded, that the actual enjoyment is very 
short, and the alternative of appetite and disgust long as well as 
uneasy. So that, upon the whole, it should seem those gentlemen 
who are called men of pleasure, from their eager pursuit of it, do 
in reality, with great expense of fortune, ease, and health, purchase 

Lys. You may spin out plausible arguments, but will after all 
find it a difficult matter to convince me that so many ingenious 
men should not be able to distinguish between things so directly 
opposite as pain and pleasure. How is it possible Jo account for 

Cri. I believe a reason may be assigned for it, but to men of 
pleasure no truth is so palatable as a fable. Jove once upon a 
time having ordered that pleasure and pain should be mixed in 
equal proportions in every dose of human life j upon a complaint 
that some men endeavoured to separate what he had joined, and 
taking more than their share of the sweet, would leave all the sour 
for others, commanded Mercury to put a stop to this evil, by fixing 
on each delinquent a pair of invisible spectacles, which should 
change the appearance of things, making pain look like pleasure, 
and pleasure like pain, labour like recreation, and recreation like 
labour. From that time the men of pleasure are eternally mis- 
taking and repenting. 

Lys. If your doctrine takes place, I would fain know what can 
be the advantage of a great fortune, which all mankind so eagerly 

Cri. It is a common saying with Eucrates that a great fortune is 
an edged tool^ which a hundred may come at for one who knows 

The Second Dialogue. 85 

how to use it, so much easier is the art of getting than that of 
spending. What its advantage is I will not say, but I will venture to 
declare what it is not. I am sure that where abundance excludes 
want, and enjoyment prevents appetites, there is not the quickest 
sense of those pleasures we have been speaking of, in which the 
footman hath often a greater share than his lord, who cannot 
enlarge his stomach in proportion to his estate. 

17. Reasonable and well-educated men of all ranks have, I 
believe, pretty much the same amusements, notwithstanding the 
difference of their fortunes : but those who are particularly dis- 
tinguished as men of pleasure seem to possess it in a very small 

Eufh. I have heard that among persons of that character a game 
of cards is esteemed a chief diversion. 

Lyf. Without cards there could be no living for people of 
fashion. It is the most delightful way of passing an evening 
when gentlemen and ladies are got together, who would otherwise 
be at a loss what to say or do with themselves. But a pack of 
cards is so engaging that it doth not only -employ'them when they 
are met, but serves to draw them together. Quadrille gives them 
pleasure in prospect during the dull hours of the day, they reflect 
on it with delight, and it furnishes discourse when it is over. 

Cri. One would be apt to suspect these people of condition pass 
their time but heavily, and are but little the better for their for- 
tunes, whose chief amusement is a thing in the power of every 
porter or footman, who is as well qualified to receive pleasure 
from cards as a peer. I can easily conceive that, when people of 
a certain turn are got together, they should prefer doing anything 
to the ennui of their own conversation ; but it is not easy to con- 
ceive there is any great pleasure in this. What a card-table can 
afford requires neither parts nor fortune to judge of. 

Lys. Play is a serious amusement, that comes to the relief of a 
man of pleasure, after the more lively and affecting enjoyments of 
sense. It kills time beyond anything j and is a most admirable 
anodyne to divert or prevent thought, which might otherwise prey 
upon the mind. 

Cri. I can easily comprehend that no man upon earth ought 
to prize anodynes for the spleen more than a man of fashion 

86 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

and pleasure. An ancient sage, speaking of one of that character, 
saith he is made wretched by disappointments and appetites, 
Xt/Tretrat aTtoTvyy&vtov KCU ZmOvfjL&v. And if this was true of the 
Greeks, who lived in the sun, and had so much spirit, I am apt to 
think it is still more so of our modern English. Something there 
is in our climate and complexion that makes idleness nowhere 
so much its own punishment as in England 35 , where an uneducated 
fine gentleman pays for his momentary pleasures, with long and 
cruel intervals of spleen : for relief of which he is driven into 
sensual excesses, that produce a proportionable depression of spirits, 
which, as it createth a greater want of pleasures, so it lessens the 
ability to enjoy them. There is a cast of thought in the complexion 
of an Englishman, which renders him the most unsuccessful rake 
in the world. He is (as Aristotle expresseth it) at variance with 
himself 36 . He is neither brute enough to enjoy his appetites, nor 
man enough to govern them. He knows and feels that what he 
pursues is not his true good ; his reflection serving only to shew him 
that misery which his habitual sloth and indolence will not suffer 
him to remedy. At length, being grown odious to himself, and 
abhorring his own company, he runs into every idle assembly, not 
from the hopes of pleasure, but merely to respite the pain of his 
own mind. Listless and uneasy at the present, he hath no delight 
in reflecting on what is past, or in the prospect of anything to 
come. This man of pleasure, when, after a wretched scene of 
vanity and woe, his animal nature is worn to the stumps, wishes 
and dreads death by turns, and is sick of living, without having 
ever tried or known the true life of man. 

Euph. It is well this sort of life, which is of so little benefit to 
the owner, conduceth so much to that of the public. But pray tell 
me, do these gentlemen set up for minute philosophers ? 

Cri. That sect, you must know, contains two sorts of philoso- 
phers, the wet and the dry. Those I have been describing are of 
the former kind. They differ rather in practice than in theory. 
As an older, graver, or duller man, from one that is younger, and 
more capable or fond of pleasure. The dry philosopher passeth 
his time but dryly. He has the honour of pimping for the vices of 
more sprightly men, who in return offer some small incense to 

85 Dial. III. sect. 12. ** Magna Moralia, II. 6. 

The Second Dialogue. 87 

his vanity. Upon this encouragement, and to make his own mind 
easy when it is past being pleased, he employs himself in justifying 
those excesses he cannot partake in. But, to return to your 
question, those miserable folk are mighty men for the minute 

Euph. What hinders them then from putting an end to their 
lives ? 

Cri. Their not being persuaded of the truth of what they profess. 
Some, indeed, in a fit of despair, do now and then lay violent 
hands on themselves. And as the minute philosophy prevails, 
we daily see more examples of suicide. But they bear no propor - 
tion to those who would put an end to their lives if they durst ;3 7. 
My friend Clinias, who had been one of them, and a philosopher 
of rank, let me into the secret history of their doubts, and fears, 
and irresolute resolutions of making away with themselves, which 
last he assures me is a frequent topic with men of pleasure, when 
they have drunk themselves into a little spirit. It was by virtue of 
this mechanical valour the renowned philosopher Hermocrates 
shot himself through the head. The same thing hath since been 
practised by several others, to the great relief of their friends. Sple- 
netic, worried, and frightened out of their wits, they run upon their 
doom with the same courage as a bird runs into the mouth of a 
rattle-snake, not because they are bold to die, but because they are 
afraid to live. Clinias endeavoured to fortify his irreligion by 
the discourse and opinion of other minute philosophers, who were 
mutually strengthened in their unbelief ^ his. After this manner, 
authority working in a circle, they endeavoured to atheifce one 
another. But, though he pretended even to a demonstration 
against the being of a God 38 , yet he could not inwardly conquer 
his own belief. He fell sick, and acknowledged this truth, is now 
a sober man and a good Christian ; owns he was never so happy 
as since he has become such, nor so wretched as while 'he was a 
minute philosopher. And he who has tried both conditions may 
be allowed a proper judge of both. 

Lys. Truly a fine account of the brightest and bravest men 
of the age ! 

87 Cf. Theory of Vision Vindicated, sect. 5, Oracles of Reason. 

and note on Philosophical Dissertation upon 38 Cf. ' Advertisement ; ' also * Editor's 

Death. See also the Preface to Gildon's Preface,' p. 5. 

88 Alcipkron y or the Minute Philosopher : 

Cri. Bright and brave are fine attributes. But our curate is 
of opinion that all you free-thinking rakes are either fools or 
cowards. Thus he argues : if such a man doth not see his true 
interest, he wants sense ; if he doth, but dare not pursue it, he 
wants courage. In this manner, from the defect of sense and 
courage, he deduceth that whole species of men, who are so apt to 
value themselves upon both those qualities. 

Lyt. As for their courage, they are at all times ready to give 
proof of it ; and for their understanding, thanks to nature, it is of 
a size not to be measured by country parsons. 

1 8. Euph. But Socrates, who was no country parson, suspected 
your men of pleasure were such through ignorance. 

Lys. Ignorance of what ? 

Euph. Of the art of computing. It was his opinion that rakes 
cannot reckon-^. And that for want of this skill they make wrong 
judgments about pleasure, on the right choice of which their 
happiness depends. 

Ly*. I do not understand you. 

Euph. Do you grant that sense perceiveth only sensible things ? 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. Sense perceiveth only things present ? 

Lys. This too I grant. 

Euph. Future pleasures, therefore, and pleasures of the under- 
standing are not to be judged of by actual sense ? 

Lys. They are not. 

Euph. Those therefore 'who judge of pleasure by sense may find 
themselves mistaken at the foot of the account. 

Cum lapidosa chiragra 
Contudit articulos veteris ramalia fagi, 
Turn crassos translsse dies lucemque palustrem, 
Et sibi jam seri vitam ingemuere relictam 40 . 

To make a right computation, should you not consider all the 
faculties, and all the kinds of pleasure, taking into your account 
the future as well as the present, and rating them all according 
to their true Value ? 

Cri. The Epicureans themselves allowed that pleasure which 
procures a greater pain, or hinders a greater pleasure, should be 

39 [Plato in Protag.]- AUTHOR. * [Persius, Sat. V.] AUTHOR. 

The Second Dialogue. 89 

regarded as a pain ; and, that pain which procures a greater plea- 
sure, or prevents a greater pain, is to be accounted a pleasure 41 . 
In order therefore to make a true estimate of pleasure, the great 
spring of action, and that from whence the conduct of life takes 
its bias, we ought to compute intellectual pleasures and future 
pleasures, as well as present and sensible; we ought to make 
allowance, in the valuation of each particular pleasure, for all the 
pains and evils, for all the disgust, remorse, and shame, that 
attend it; we ought to regard both kind and quantity, the 
sincerity, the intenseness, and the duration of pleasures. 

Euph. And, all these points duly considered, will not Socrates 
seem to have had reason on his side, when he thought ignorance 
made rakes and particularly their being ignorant of what he calls 
the science of more and t less, greater and smaller, equality and 
comparison, that is to say, of the art of computing ? 

L,y$. All this discourse seems notional. For real abilities of 
every kind, it is well known, we have the brightest men of the 
age among us. But all those who know the world do calculate 
that what you call a good Christian, who hath neither a large 
conscience, nor unprejudiced mind, must be unfit for the affairs 
of it. Thus you see, while you compute yourselves out of plea- 
sure, others compute you out of business. What then are you 
good for with all your computation ? 

Euph. I have all imaginable respect for the abilities of free- 
thinkers. My only fear was, their parts might be too lively for 
such slow talents as forecast and computation, the gifts of 
ordinary men. 

19. Crt. I cannot make them the same compliment that Euphra- 
nor does. For, though I shall not pretend to characterise the 
whole sect, yet thus much I may truly affirm that those who have 
fallen in my way have been mostly raw men of pleasure, old 
sharpers in business, or a third sort of lazy sciolists, who are 
neither men of business, nor men of speculation, but set up for 
judges or critics in all kinds, without having made a progress in 
any. These, among men of the world, pass for profound theorists, 

41 Cicero, De Fitiibus, I. And the mo- pleasures. Mr. Mill, in his Utilitarianism, 
dern Utilitarians recognise contrasts in the insists frequently upon their generic dif- 
quality as well as in the quantity of our ferences. 

90 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

and among speculative men would seem to know the world : 
a conceited race, equally useless to the affairs and studies of man- 
kind. Such as these, for the most part, seem to be sectaries of 
the minute philosophy. I will not deny that now and then you 
may meet with a man of easy manners, that, without those faults 
and affectations, is carried into the party by the mere stream of 
education, fashion, or company ; all which do in this age prejudice 
men against religion, even those who mechanically rail at pre- 
judice. I must not forget that the minute philosophers have also 
a strong party among the beaux and fine ladies ; and, as affectations 
out of character are often the strongest, there is nothing so dog- 
matical and inconvincible as one of these fine things, when it sets 
up for free-thinking. But, be these professors of the sect never 
so dogmatical, their authority must needs be small with men of 
sense. For who would choose for his guide, in the search for truth, 
a man whose thoughts and time are taken up with dress, visits, 
and diversions ? or whose education hath been behind the counter, 
or in an office? or whose speculations have been employed on 
the forms of business, who is only well read in the ways and 
commerce of mankind, in stockjobbing, purloining, supplanting, 
bribing? Or would any man in his senses give a fig for 
meditations and discoveries made over a bottle? And yet it is 
certain that, instead of thought, books, and study, most free- 
thinkers are the proselytes of a drinking club. Their principles 
are often settled, and decisions on the deepest points made, when 
they are not fit to make a bargain. 

Lys. You forget our writers, Crito. They make a world of 

Cri. So would worse writers in such a cause. Alas! how few 
read ! and of these, how few are able to judge ! How many wish 
your notions true! How many had rather be diverted than 
instructed! How many are convinced by a title! I may allow 
your reasons to be effectual, without allowing them to be good. 
Arguments, in themselves of small weight, have great effect, when 
they are recommended by a mistaken interest, when they are 
pleaded for by passion, when they are countenanced by the humour 
of the age ; and above all, with some sort of men, when they are 
against law, government, and established opinions : things which, 
as a wise and good man would not depart from without clear 

The Second Dialogue. 91 

evidence, a weak or a bad man will affect to disparage on the 
slightest grounds. 

Lys. And yet the arguments of our philosophers alarm. 

Cri. The force of their reasoning is not what alarms : their con- 
tempt of laws and government is alarming : their application to 
the young and ignorant is dangerous. 

Euph. But without disputing or disparaging their talent at 
ratiocination, it seems very possible their success might not be 
owing to that alone. May it not in some measure be ascribed 
to the defects of others, as well as to their own perfections ? My 
friend Eucrates used to say, that the church would thrive and 
flourish beyond all opposition, if some certain persons minded 
piety more than politics, practics than polemics, fundamentals 
than consectaries, substance than circumstance, things than 
notions, and notions than words. 

Lys. Whatever may be the cause, the effects are too plain to 
be denied. And when a considering man observes that our 
notions do, in this most learned and knowing age, spread and 
multiply, in opposition to established laws, and every day gain 
ground against a body so numerous, so learned, so well supported, 
protected, and encouraged, for the service and defence of reli- 
gion : I say, when a man observes and considers all this, he will 
be apt to ascribe it to the force of truth, and the merits of 
our cause; which, had it been supported with the revenues and 
establishments of the church and universities, you may guess 
what a figure it would make, by the figure that it makes without 

Euph. It is much to be pitied that the learned professors of 
your sect do not meet with the encouragement they deserve. 

Lys. All in due time. People begin to open their eyes. It is 
not impossible but those revenues that in ignorant times were 
applied to a wrong use may, hereafter, in a more enlightened age, 
be applied to a better. 

Cri. But why professors and encouragement for what needs no 
teaching ? An acquaintance of mine has a most ingenious footman 
that can neither write nor read, who learned your whole system 
in half an hour : he knows when and how to nod, shake his head, 
smile, and give a hint, as well as the ablest sceptic, and is in fact 
a very minute philosopher. 

92 Akiphron^ or the Minute Philosopher: 

Lys. Pardon me, it takes time to unlearn religious prejudices, 
and requires a strong head. 

Cri. I do not know how it might have been once upon a time. 
But in the present laudable education, I know several who have 
been imbued with no religious notions at all ; and others who 
have had them so very slight, that they rubbed off without the 
least pains. 

20. Panope, young and beautiful, under the care of her aunt, 
an admirer of the minutf philosophy, was kept from learning the 
principles of religion, that she might not be accustomed to believe 
without a reason, nor assent to what she did not comprehend. 
Panope was not indeed prejudiced with religious notions, but got 
a notion of intriguing, and a notion of play, which ruined her 
reputation by fourteen, and her fortune by four-and-twenty. I 
have often reflected on the different fate of two brothers in my 
neighbourhood. Cleon, the elder, being designed an accomplished 
gentleman, was sent to town, and had the first part of his 
education in a great school : what religion he learned there was 
soon unlearned in a certain celebrated society, which, till we have 
a better, may pass for a nursery of minute philosophers. Cleon 
dressed well, could cheat at cards, had a nice palate, understood 
the mystery of the die, was a mighty man in the minute philo- 
sophy ; and having shined a few years in these accomplishments, 
he died before thirty, childless and rotten, expressing the utmost 
indignation that he could not outlive that old dog his father ; who, 
having a great notion of polite manners, and knowledge of the 
world, had purchased them to his favourite son with much expense, 
but had been more frugal in the education of Chserephon, the 
younger son j who was brought up at a country school, and entered 
a commoner in the university, where he qualified himself for a 
parsonage in his father's gift, which he is now possessed of, 
together with the estate of the family, and a numerous offspring. 

Lys. A pack of unpolished cubs, I warrant. 

Cri. Less polished, perhaps, but more sound, more honest, and 
more useful, than many who pass for fine gentlemen. Crates, a 
worthy justice of the peace in this country, having had a son 
miscarry at London, by the conversation of a minute philosopher, 
used to say, with a great air of complaint If a man spoils my 

The Second Dialogue. 93 

corn, or hurts my cattle, I have a remedy against him j but if he 
spoils my children I have none. 

Lys. I warrant you he was for penal methods : he would hav e 
had a law to persecute tender consciences. 

Crt. The tender conscience of a minute philosopher ! He who 
tutored the son of Crates soon after did justice on himself. For 
he taught Lycidas, a modest young man, the princ iples of his sect. 
Lycidas, in return, debauched his daughter, an only child : upon 
which, Charmides (that was the minute philosopher's name) hanged 
himself. Old Bubalion in the city is carking, starving, and 
cheating, that his son may drink, gamt*, and keep mistresses, 
hounds, and horses, and die in a jail. Bubalion nevertheless 
thinks himself wise, and passeth for one that minds the main 
chance. He is a minute philosopher, which learning he acquired 
behind the counter, from' the works of Prodicus and Tryphon. 
This same Bubalion was one night at supper, talking against the 
immortality of the soul, with two or three grave citizens, one of 
whom the next day declared himself a bankrupt, with five thousand 
pounds of Bubalion's in his hands j and the night following he 
received a note from a servant, who had during his lecture waited 
at table, demanding the sum of fifty guineas to be laid under a 
stone, and concluding with most terrible threats and impre- 

Lys. Not co repeat what hath been already demonstrated 45 that 
the public is at bottom no sufferer by such accidents, which in 
truth are inconvenient only to private persons, who in their turn 
too may reap the benefit of them ; I say, not to repeat all that 
hath been demonstrated on that head, I shall only ask you whether 
there would not be rakes and rogues, although we did not make 
them? Believe me, the world always was, and always will be 
the same, as long as men are men. 

CrL I deny that the world is always the same. Human nature, 
to use Alciphron's comparison, is like land, better or worse, as 
it is improved, and according to the seeds or principles sown in 
it. Though nobody held your tenets, I grant there might be 
bad men by the force of corrupt appetites and irregular passions , 
but, where men, to the force of appetite and passion, add that 
of opinion, and are wicked from principle, there will be more 

42 Cf. sect. 2. 

94 AlciphroH) or the Minute Philosopher: 

men wicked, and those more incurably and outrageously so. The 
error of a lively rake lies in his passions, and may be reformed : 
but the dry rogue who sets up for judgment is incorrigible. It 
is an observation of Aristotle's, that there are two sorts of de- 
bauchees, the &Kparri$) and the aKo'Aaorrop, of which the one is 
so against his judgment, the other with it 43 ; and that there may 
be hopes of the former, but none of the latter. And in fact I 
have always observed, that a rake who is a minute philosopher, 
when grown old, becomes a sharper in business. 

Lys. I could name you several such who have grown most noted 

CV/. Patriots ! such patriots as Catiline and Mark Anthony. 

Lys. And what then? Those famous Romans were brave, 
though unsuccessful. They wanted neither sense nor courage; 
and if their schemes had taken effect, the brisker part of their 
countrymen had been much the better for them. 

21. The wheels of government go on, though wound up by 
different hands; if not in the same form, yet in some other, 
perhaps a better. There is an endless variety in nature. Weak 
men, indeed, are prejudiced towards rules and systems in life 
and government; and think if these are gone all is gone: but 
a man of a great soul and free spirit delights in the noble 
experiment of blowing up systems and dissolving governments, 
to mould them anew upon other principles and in another shape. 
Take my word for it, there is a plastic nature in things that 
seeks its own end. Pull a state to pieces, jumble, confound, and 
shake together the particles of human society, and then let 
them stand a while, and you shall soon see them settle of them- 
selves in some convenient order, where heavy heads are lowest, 
and men of genius uppermost. 

Eufh. Lysicles speaks his mind freely. 

Lys. Where was the advantage of free-thinking, if it were not 
attended with free-speaking; or of free-speaking, if it did not 
produce free-acting ? We are for thorough, independent, original 
freedom. Inward freedom without outward is good for nothing 
but to set a man's judgment at variance with his practice. 

43 See Nicom. Ethics, VII. I ; also Butler in his Sermons. 

The Second Dialogue. 95 

Cr/. This free way of Lysicles may seem new to you: it is 
not so to me. As the minute philosophers lay it down for a 
maxim that there is nothing sacred of any kind, nothing but 
what may be made a jest of, exploded, and changed like the 
fashion of their clothes- so nothing is more frequent than for 
them to utter their schemes and principles, not only if! select 
companies, but even in public. 

In a certain part of the world, where ingenious men are 
wont to retail their speculations, I remember to have seen a 
valetudinarian in a long wig and a cloak, sitting at the upper end 
of a table, with half a disciples* about him. After he 
had talked about religion, in a manner and with an air that 
would make one think atheism established by law, and religion 
only tolerated, he entered upon civil government; and observed 
to his audience, that the natural world was in a perpetual 
circulation. Animals, said he, who draw their sustenance 
from the earth, mix with that same earth, and in their turn 
become food for vegetables, which again nourish the animal 
kind : the vapours that ascend from this globe descend back upon 
it in showers; the elements alternately prey upon each other: 
that which one part of nature loseth another gains ; the sum total 
remaining always the same, being neither bigger nor lesser, 
better nor worse, for all these intestine changes. Even so, said 
this learned professor, the revolutions in the civil world are no 
detriment to human-kind; one part whereof rises as the other 
falls, and wins by another's loss. A man therefore who thinks 
deeply, and hath an eye on the whole system, is no more a bigot 
to government than to religion. He knows how to suit himself 
to occasions, and make the best of every event : for the rest, he 
looks on all translations of power and property from one hand 
to another with a philosophic indifference. Our lecturer con- 
cluded his discourse with a most ingenious analysis of all political 
and moral virtues into their first principles and causes, shewing 
them to be mere fashions, tricks of state, and illusions on the 

Lyt. We have been often told of the good effects of religion 
and learning, churches and universities: but I dare affirm that 
a dozen or two ingenious men of our sect have done more towards 
advancing real knowledge, by extemporaneous lectures, in the 

96 A Iciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

compass of a few years, than all the ecclesiastics put together for 
as many centuries. 

Euph. And the nation no doubt thrives accordingly; but it 
seems, Crito, you have heard them discourse. 

Cri. Upon hearing this, and other lectures of the same tendency, 
methoiight it was needless to establish professors for the minute 
philosophy in either university; while there are so many spon- 
taneous lecturers in every corner of the streets, ready to open 
men's eyes, and rub off their prejudices about religion, loyalty, 
and public spirit. 

Lys. If wishing was ( i:o any purpose, I could wish for a tele- 
scope that might draw into my view things future in time, as 
well as distant in place. Oh! that I could but look into the 
next age, and behold what it is that we are preparing to be, the 
glorious harvest of our principles : the spreading of which hath 
produced a visible tendency in the nation towards something great 
and new. 

Cri. One thing I dare say you would expect to see, be the 
changes and agitations of the public what they will, that is, every 
free-thinker upon his legs. You are all sons of nature, who 
cheerfully follow the fortunes of the common mass. 

Lys. And it must be owned we have a maxim that each should 
take care of one. , 

Cri. Alas, Lysicles, you wrong your own character. You would 
feign pass upon the world, and upon yourselves, for interested 
cunning men: but can anything be more disinterested than to 
sacrifice all regards to the abstracted speculation of truth? Or 
can anything be more void of all cunning than to publish your 
discoveries to the world, teach others to play the whole game, 
and arm mankind against yourselves ? 

22. If a man may venture to suggest so mean a thought as the 
love of their country to souls fired with the love of truth, and 
the love of liberty, and grasping the whole extent of nature ; I 
would humbly propose it to you, gentlemen, to observe the caution 
practised by all other discoverers, projectors, and makers of ex- 
periments, who never hazard all on the first trial. Would it 
not be prudent to try the success of your principles on a small 
model in some remote corner? For instance, set up a colony 

The Second Dialogue. 97 

of atheists in Monomotapa, and see how it prospers, before you 
proceed any farther at home : half a dozen ship-loads of minute 
philosophers might easily be spared upon so good a design. In 
the meantime, you gentlemen, who have found out that there 
is nothing to be hoped or feared in another life, that conscience 
is a bug-bear, that the bands of government and the cement of 
human society are rotten things, to be resolved and crumbled 
into nothing by the argumentation of every minute philosopher : 
be so good as to keep these sublime discoveries to yourselves : 
suffer us, our wives, our children, our servants, and our neigh- 
bours, to continue in the belief and way of thinking established 
by the laws of our country. In good earnest, I wish you would 
go try your experiments among the Hottentots or Turks. 

Lys. The Hottentots we think well of, believing them to be an 
unprejudiced people : but it is to be feared their diet and customs 
would not agree with our philosophers. As for the Turks, they are 
bigots, who have a notion of God, and a respect for Jesus Christ ; 
I question whether it might be safe to venture among them. 

O/. Make your experiment then in some other part of Chris- 

Lys. We hold all other Christian nations to be much under the 
power of prejudice : even our neighbours the Dutch are too much 
prejudiced in favour of their religion by law established for a 
prudent man to attempt innovations under their government. 
Upon the whole, it seems we can execute our schemes nowhere 
with so much security and such prospect of success as at home. 
Not to say that we have already made a good progress. Oh ! that 
we could but once see a parliament of true, staunch, libertine 
free-thinkers ! 

Cri. God forbid ! I should be sorry to have such men for my 
servants, not to say, for my masters. 

Ly's. In that we differ. 

33. But you will agree with me that the right way to come at 
this was to begin with extirpating the prejudices of particular 
persons. We have carried on this work for many years with 
much art and industry, and at first with secrecy, working like 
moles under ground, concealing our progress from the public, and 
our ultimate views from many, even of our own proselytes, 


98 AlciphroH) or the Minute Philosopher: 

blowing the coals between polemical divines, laying hold on 
and improving every incident which the passions and folly of 
churchmen afforded to the advantage of our sect. As our prin- 
ciples obtained, we still proceeded to farther inferences ; and as 
our numbers multiplied, we gradually disclosed ourselves and our 
opinions : where we are now I need not say. We have stubbed, 
and weeded, and cleared human nature to that degree that, in 
a little time, leaving it alone without any labouring or teaching, 
you shall see natural and just ideas sprout forth of themselves. 

Cri. But I have heard a man, who had lived long and observed 
much, remark, that the worst and most unwholesome weed was 
this same minute philosophy. We have had, said he, divers 
epidemical distempers in the state, but this hath produced of all 
others the most destructive plague. Enthusiasm had its day, its 
effects were violent and soon over; this infects more quietly, but 
spreads widely : the former bred a fever in the state ; this breeds 
a consumption and final decay. A rebellion or an invasion 
alarms, and puts the public upon its defence ; but a corruption of 
principles works its ruin more slowly perhaps, but more surely. 

This may be illustrated by a fable I somewhere met with in the 
writings of a Swiss philosopher, setting forth the original of 
brandy and gunpowder. The government of the north being once 
upon a time vacant, the prince of the power of the air convened 
a council in hell, wherein, upon competition between two demons 
of rank, it was determined they should both make trial of their 
abilities, and he should succeed who did most mischief. One 
made his appearance in the shape of gunpowder, the other in that 
of brandy: the former was a declared enemy, and roared with 
a terrible noise, which made folks afraid, and put them on their 
guard ; the other passed as a friend and a physician through the 
world, disguised himself with sweets, and perfumes, and drugs, 
made his way into the ladies' cabinets and the apothecaries' 
shops, and, under the notion of helping digestion, comforting the 
spirits, and cheering the heart, produced direct contrary effects ; 
and, having insensibly thrown great numbers of human-kind into 
a lingering but fatal decay, was found to people hell and the grave 
so fast as to merit the government which he still possesses. 

24. Lys. Those who please may amuse themselves with fables 

The Second Dialogue. 99 

and allegories. This is plain English : liberty is a good thing, and 
we are the support of liberty, 

Or/. To me it seems that liberty and virtue were made for each 
other. If any man wish to enslave his country, nothing is a fitter 
preparative than vice; and nothing leads to vice so surely as 
irreligion. For my part, I cannot comprehend or find out, after 
having considered it in all lights, how this crying down religion 
should be the effect of honest views towards a just and legal 
liberty. Some seem to propose an indulgence in vice; others 
may have in prospect the advantage which needy and ambitious 
men are used to make in the ruin of a state. One may indulge 
a pert petulant spirit ; another hope to be esteemed among 
libertines, when he wants wit to please, or abilities to be useful. 
But, be men's views what they will, let us examine what good 
your principles have done : who has been the better for the in- 
structions of these minute philosophers ? Let us compare what 
we are in respect of learning, loyalty, honesty, wealth, power, 
and public spirit, with what we have been. Free-thinking (as it 
is called) hath wonderfully grown of late years. Let us see what 
hath grown up with it, or what effects it hath produced. To make 
a catalogue of ills is disagreeable ; and the only blessing it can pre- 
tend to is luxury : that same blessing which revenged the world upon 
old Rome ; that same luxury that makes a nation, like a diseased 
pampered body, look full and fat with one foot in the grave. 

Lys. You mistake the matter. There are no people who think 
and argue better about the public good of a state than our sect ; 
who have also invented many things tending to that end which 
we cannot as yet conveniently put in practice. 

Cri. But one point there is from which it must be owned the 
public hath already received some advantage, which is the effect 
of your principles, flowing from them, and spreading as they do: 
I mean that old Roman practice of self-murder, which at once 
puts an end to all distress, ridding the world and themselves of 
the miserable. 

Lys. You were pleased before to make some reflections on this 
custom, and laugh at the irresolution of our free-thinkers : but 
I can aver for matter of fact that they have often recommended 
it by their example as well as arguments 48 ; and that it is solely 

* 8 e.g. in the Philosophy of Death. 
H % 

TOO Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

owing to them that a practice, so useful and magnanimous, hath, 
been taken out of the hands of lunatics, and restored to that credit 
among men of sense which it anciently had. In whatever light 
you may consider it, this is in fact a solid benefit. But the best 
effect of our principles is that light and truth so visibly shed 
abroad in the world. From how many prejudices, errors, per- 
plexities, and contradictions have we freed the minds of our 
fellow- subjects! How many hard words and intricate absurd 
notions had possessed the minds of men before our philosophers 
appeared in the world ! But now even women and children have 
right and sound notions of things. What say you to this, Crito ? 

Cri. I say, with respect to these great advantages of destroying 
men and notions, that I question whether the public gains as 
much by the latter as it loseth by the former. For my own part, 
I had rather my wife and children all believed what they had no 
notion of, and daily pronounced words without a meaning, than 
that any one of them should cut his throat, or leap out of a 
window. Errors and nonsense, as such, are of small concern in 
the eyes of the public ; which considers not the metaphysical truth 
of notions, so much as the tendency they have to produce good 
or evil. Truth itself is valued by the public, as it hath an 
influence, and is felt in the course of life. You may confute 
a whole shelf of schoolmen, and discover many speculative truths, 
without any great merit towards your country. But if I am not 
mistaken, the minute philosophers are not the men to whom we 
are most beholden for discoveries of that kind : this I say must 
be allowed, supposing, what I by no means grant, your notions 
to be true. For, to say plainly what I think, the tendency of 
your opinions is so bad that no good man can endure them, 
and your arguments for them so weak that no wise man will 
admit them. 

Lys. Has it not been proved as clear as the meridian sun that 
the politer sort of men lead much happier lives, and swim in 
pleasure, since the spreading of our principles? But, not to 
repeat or insist further on what has been so amply deduced, I shall 
only add that the advantages flowing from them extend to the 
tenderest age and the softer sex : our principles deliver children 
from terrors by night, and ladies from splenetic hours by day. 
Instead of these old-fashioned things, prayers and the Bible, the 

The Second Dialogue. 101 

grateful amusements of drams, dice, and billet-doux have suc- 
ceeded. The fair sex have now nothing to do but dress and paint, 
drink and game, adorn and divert themselves, and enter into all 
the sweet society of life. 

Crt. I thought, Lysicles, the argument from pleasure had been 
exhausted. But, since you have not done with that point, let us 
once more, by Euphranor's rule, cast up the account of pleasure 
and pain, as credit and debt, under distinct articles. We will 
set down in the life of your fine lady rich clothes, dice, cordials, 
scandal, late hours, against vapours, distaste, remorse, losses at 
play, and the terrible distress of ill-spent age increasing every 
day : suppose no cruel accident of jealousy, no madness or infamy 
of love, yet, at the foot of the account, you shall find that empty, 
giddy, gaudy, fluttering thing, not half so happy as a butterfly or 
a grasshopper on a summer's day. And for a rake or man of 
pleasure, the reckoning will be much the same, if you place 
listlessness, ignorance, rottenness, loathing, craving, quarrelling, 
and such qualities or accomplishments, over against his little 
circle of fleeting amusements long woe against momentary 
pleasure ; and if it be considered that, when sense and appetite 
go off, though he seek refuge from his conscience in the minute 
philosophy, yet in this you will find, if you sift him to the bottom, 
that he afreets much, believes little, knows nothing. 

Upon which, Lysicles, turning to me, observed, that Crito 
might dispute against fact if he pleased, but that every one must 
see the nation was the merrier for their principles. 

True, answered Crito, we are a merry nation indeed : young 
men laugh at the old ; children despise their parents ; and subjects 
make a jest of the government: happy effects of the minute 
philosophy ! 

25. Lys. Infer what effects you please : that will not make our 
principles less true. 

Cri Their truth is not what I am now considering. The point 
at present is the usefulness of your principles. And to decide this 
point we need only take a short view of them fairly proposed and 
laid together : that there is no God or providence : that man is as 
the beasts that perish: that his happiness as theirs consists in 
obeying animal instincts, appetites, and passions : that all stings 

IO2 Alciphrmt) or the Minute Philosopher : 

of conscience and sense of guilt are prejudices and errors of edu- 
cation : that religion is a state trick : that vice is beneficial to the 
public: that the soul of man is corporeal, and dissolveth like a 
flame or vapour : that man is a machine actuated according to the 
laws of motion: that consequently he is no agent, or subject of 
guilt: that a wise man will make his own particular individual 
interest in this present life the rule and measure of all his actions : 
these, and such opinions, are, it seems, the tenets of a minute 
philosopher, who is himself, according to his own principles, an 
organ played on by sensible objects, a ball bandied about by 
appetites and passions : so subtle is he as to be able to maintain 
all this by artful reasonings ; so sharp-sighted and penetrating to 
the very bottom of things as to find out that the most interested 
occult cunning is the only true wisdom. To complete his cha- 
racter, this curious piece of clock-work, having no principle of 
action within itself, and denying that it hath or can have any one 
free thought or motion, sets up for the patron of liberty, and 
earnestly contends for free-thinking. 

Crito had no sooner made an end but Lysicles addressed himself 
to Euphranor and me Crito, said he, has taken a world of pains, 
but convinced me only of one single point, to wit, that 1 must 
despair of convincing him. Never did I in the whole course of 
my life meet with a man so deeply immersed in prejudice; let 
who will pull him out for me. But I entertain better hopes of 

I can answer, said I, for myself, that my eyes and ears are 
always open to conviction : I am attentive to all that passes, and 
upon the whole shall form, whether right or wrong, a very impartial 

Crito, said Euphranor, is a more enterprising man than I, thus 
to rate and lecture a philosopher. For my part, I always find it 
easier to learn than to teach. I shall therefore beg your assistance 
to rid me of some scruples about the tendency of your opinions - y 
which I find myself unable to master, though never so willing. 
This done, though we should not tread exactly in the same steps, 
nor perhaps go the same road, yet we shall not run in all points 
diametrically opposite one to another. 

2,6. Tell me now, Lysicles, you who are a minute observer of 

The Second Dialogue. 103 

things, whether a shade be more agreeable at morning, or evening, 
or noon-day ? 

Lys. Doubtless at noon-day. 

Euph. And what disposeth men to rest ? 

Lys. Exercise. 

Euph. When do men make the greatest fires ? 

Lys. In the coldest weather. 

Euph. And what creates a love for icy liquors ? 

Lys. Excessive heat. 

Euph. What if you raise a pendulum to a great height on one 

Lys. It will, when left to itself, ascend so much the higher on 
the other. 

Euph. It should seem, therefore, that darkness ensues from 
light, rest from motion, heat from cold, and in general that one 
extreme is the consequence of another ? 

Lys. It should seem so. 

Euph. And doth not this observation hold in the civil as well 
as natural world ? Doth not power produce licence, and licence 
power? Do not whigs make tories, and tories whigs. Bigots 
make atheists, and atheists bigots 49 ? 

Lys. Granting this to be true. 

Euph. Will it not hence follow that as we abhor slavish prin- 
ciples we should avoid running into licentious ones ? I am and 
always was a sincere lover of liberty, legal English liberty ; which 
I esteem a chief blessing, ornament, and comfort of life, and the 
great prerogative of an Englishman. But is it not to be feared 
that, upon the nation's running into a licentiousness which hath 
never been endured in any civilised country, men feeling the 
intolerable evils of one extreme may naturally fall into the other? 
You must allow the bulk of mankind are not philosophers, like 
you and Alciphron. 

Lys. This I readily acknowledge. 

Euph. I have another scruple about the tendency of your 
opinions. Suppose you should prevail, and destroy this protestant 
church and clergy : how could you come at the popish ? I am 
credibly informed there is a great number of emissaries of the 
church of Rome disguised in England : who can tell what harvest 

40 Cf. Dial. V. sect. 29. 

IO4 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

a clergy so numerous, so subtle, and so well furnished with 
arguments to work on vulgar and uneducated minds, may be able 
to make in a country despoiled of all religion, and feeling the 
want of it? Who can tell whether .the spirit of free-thinking 
ending with the opposition, and the vanity with the distinction, 
when the whole nation are alike infidels; who can tell, I say, 
whether in such a juncture the men of genius themselves may not 
affect a new distinction, and be the first converts to popery ? 

Lys. And suppose they should. Between friends it would be 
no great matter. These are our maxims. In the first place, 
we hold it would be best to have no religion at all. Secondly, 
we hold that all religions are indifferent. If, therefore, upon trial, 
we find the country cannot do without a religion, why not popery 
as well as another ? I know several ingenious men of our sect, 
who, if we had a popish prince on the throne, would turn papists 
to-morrow. This is a paradox, but I shall explain it. A prince 
whom we compliment with our religion, to be sure must be 

Euph. 1 understand you. But what becomes of free-thinking 
all the while ? 

Lys. Oh ! we should have more than ever of that, for we should 
keep it all to ourselves. As for the amusement of retailing it, 
the want of this would be largely compensated by solid advan- 
tages of another kind. 

Eufh. It seems then, by this account, the tendency you 
observed in the nation towards something great and new proves 
a tendency towards popery and slavery. 

Lys. Mistake us not, good Euphranor. The thing first in our 
intention is consummate liberty : but, if this will not do, and there 
must after all be such things tolerated as religion and government, 
we are wisely willing to make the best of both. 

Cri. This puts me in mind of a thought I have often had that 
minute philosophers are dupes of the Jesuits. The two iftost 
avowed, professed, busy, propagators of infidelity, in all com- 
panies, and upon all occasions, that I ever met with, were both 
bigoted papists; and, being both men of considerable estates, 
suffered considerably on that score; which it is wonderful their 
thinking disciples should never reflect upon. Hegemon, a most 
distinguished writer among the minute philosophers, and hero of 

The Second Dialogue. 105 

the sect, I am well assured, was once a papist, and never heard 
that he professed any other religion. I know that many of the 
church of Rome abroad are pleased with the growth of infidelity 
among us, as hoping it may make way for them. The emissaries 
of Rome are known to have personated several other sects, which 
from time to time have sprung up amongst us ; and why not this 
of the minute philosophers, of all others the best calculated to 
ruin both church and state ? I myself have known a Jesuit abroad 
talk among English gentlemen like a free-thinker. I am credibly 
informed that Jesuits, known to be such by the minute philoso- 
phers at home, are admitted into their clubs, and I have observed 
them to approve, and' speak better of the Jesuits than of any 
other clergy whatsoever. Those who are not acquainted with 
the subtle spirit, the refined politics, and wonderful economy, of 
that renowned society, need only read the account given of them 
by the Jesuit Inchofer, in his book De Monarchist Solipsorum > and 
those who are will not be surprised they should be able to make 
dupes of our minute philosophers : dupes, I say, for I can never 
think they suspect they are only tools to serve the ends of 
cunningcr men than themselves. They seem to me drunk and 
giddy with a false notion of liberty, and spurred on by this prin- 
ciple to make mad experiments on the'; country; they agree only 
in pulling down all that stands in their way; without any con- 
certed scheme, and without caring or knowing what to erect in 
its stead. To hear them, as I have often done, descant on the 
moral virtues, resolve them into shame, then laugh at shame as 
a weakness, admire the unconfined lives of savages 50 , despise all 
order and decency of education one would think the intention 
of these philosophers was, when they had pruned and weeded the 
notions of their fellow-subjects, and divested them of their pre- 
judices, to strip them of their clothes, and fill the country with 
naked followers of nature, enjoying all the privileges of brutality. 

Here Crito made a pause, and fixed his eyes on Alciphron, who 
during this whole conversation had sat thoughtful and attentive, 
without saying a word ; and with an air one while dissatisfied at 
what Lysicles advanced, another serene and pleased, seeming to 

50 Cf. Berkeley's Discourse addressed to Magistrates, sect. ai. 

io6 Alciphron, or the Mimite Philosopher. 

approve some better thought of his own. But the day being now 
far spen^ Alciphron proposed to adjourn the argument till the 
following; when, said he, I shall set matters on a new foundation, 
and in so full and clear a light, as, I doubt not, will give entire 
satisfaction. So we changed the discourse, and after a repast 
upon cold provisions, took a walk on the strand, and in the cool 
of the evening returned to Crito's. 


i. Alciphron's account of honour. 2. Character and conduct of men of honour. 3. Sense 
of moral beauty. 4. The honestum or rb Ka\bv of the ancients. 5. Taste for moral 
beauty whether a sure guide or rule. 6. Minute philosophers ravished with the abstract 
beauty of virtue. 7- Their virtue alone disinterested and heroic. 8. Beauty of sensible 
objects what, and how perceived. 9. The idea of beauty explained by painting and 
architecture. 10. Beauty of the moral system, wherein it consists, n. It supposeth a 
Providence. 12. Influence of rb /caAbi/ and rb irpenov. 13. Enthusiasm of Cratylus 
compared with the sentiments of Aristotle. 14. Compared with the Stoical principles. 
15. Minute philosophers, their talent for raillery and ridicule. 16. The wisdom of those 
who make virtue alone its own reward. 

j. THE following day, as we sat round the tea-table, in a sum- 
mer parlour which looks into the garden, Alciphron after the first 
dish turned down his cup, and, reclining back on his chair, pro- 
ceeded as follows Above all the sects upon earth, it is the peculiar 
privilege of ours, not to be tied down by any principles. While 
other philosophers profess a servile adherence to certain tenets, 
ours assert a noble freedom, differing not only one from another, 
but very often the same man from hir iself. Which method of 
proceeding, beside other advantages, hath this annexed to it, that 
we are of all men the hardest to confute. You may, perhaps, 
confute a particular tenet, but then this affects only him who 
maintains it, and so long only as he maintains it. Some of our 
sect dogmatize more than others, and in some more than other 
points. The doctrine of the usefulness of vice is a point wherein 
we are not all agreed. Some of us are great admirers of virtue. 

81 The preceding Dialogue having vin- Ethics, his Discourse on Passive Obedience 
dicated virtue, by exposing the theory of the published twenty years before Alcipbron 
utility of vice, this one, directed against should be referred to. That the ' general well- 
Shaftesbury, is meant to shew the insuffi- being of all men, of all nations, of all ages 
ciency of a moral taste or sense, and of of the world' is what the infinitely good 
the abstract beauty of virtue, for establish- God intends to be promoted ' by the con- 
ing practical morals, and regulating the curring actions of each individual* that 
actions of men. This suggests the need for this end is to be accomplished by the 
Religion, with its awful sense of the con- observance of universal rules which have a 
stant presence and moral government of corresponding tendency and that faith in 
God, and faith in a future life. Shaftesbury's Divine moral government and man's immor- 
Cbaracteristics should be compared with this tality is necessary to make the rules effi- 
Dialogue. cacious, are among its fundamental principles. 

For Berkeley's own general principles of It is a system of Theological Utilitarianism. 

io8 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

With others the points of vice and virtue are problematical. For 
my part, though I think the doctrine maintained yesterday by 
Lysicles an ingenious speculation ; yet upon the whole, there are 
divers reasons which incline me to depart from it, and rather to 
espouse the virtuous side of the question; with the smallest, 
perhaps, but the most contemplative and laudable part of our sect. 
It seemeth, I say, after a nice inquiry and balancing on both sides, 
that we ought to prefer virtue to vice ; and that such preference 
would contribute both to the public weal, and the reputation of our 

You are to know then, we have among us several that, with- 
out one grain of religion, are men of the nicest honour, and 
therefore men of virtue because men of honour. Honour is a 
noble unpolluted source of virtue, without the least mixture of fear, 
interest, or superstition. It hath all the advantages without the 
evils which attend religion. It is the mark of a great and fine 
soul, and is to be found among persons of rank and breeding. It 
affects the court, the senate, and the camp, and in general every 
rendezvous of people of fashion. 

Euph. You sAy then that honour is the source of virtue ? 

Ale. I do. 

Euph. Can a thing be the source of itself? 

Ale. It cannot. 

Euph. The source, therefore, is distinguished from that of which 
it is the source ? 

Ale. Doubtless. 

Euph. Honour then is one thing, and virtue another ? 

Ale. I grant it. Virtuous actions are the effect, and honour is 
the source or cause of that effect. 

Euph. Tell me. Is honour the will producing those actions, or 
the final cause for which they are produced ; or right reason which 
is their rule and limit, or the object about which they are conver- 
sant? Or do you by the word honour understand a faculty or 
appetite ? all which are supposed, in one sense or other, to be the 
source of human actions. 

Ale. Nothing of all this. 

Euph. Be pleased then to give me some notion or definition of it. 
- Alciphron, having mused a while, answered, that he defined 
honour to be a principle of virtuous actions. 

The Third Dialogue. 109 

To which Euphranor replied : If I understand it rightly, the 
word principle is variously taken. Sometimes by principles we 
mean the parts of which a whole is composed, and into which 
it may be resolved. Thus the elements are said to be principles 
of compound bodies. And thus words, syllables, and letters are 
the principles of speech. Sometimes by principle we mean a 
small particular seed, the growth or gradual unfolding of which 
doth produce an organized body, animal or vegetable, in its proper 
size and shape. Principles at other times are supposed to be 
certain fundamental theorems in arts and sciences, in religion and 
politics. Let me know in which of these Senses, or whether it be 
in some other sense, that you understand this word, when you say 
honour is a principle of virtue. 

To this Alciphron replied, that for his part he meant it in 
none of those senses, but defined honour to be a certain ardour 
or enthusiasm that glowed in the breast of a gallant man. 

Upon this, Euphranor observed, it was always admitted to put 
the definition in place of the thing defined. Is this al'owcd, said 
he, or not ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. May we not therefore say, that a man of honour is a warm 
man, or an enthusiast ? 

Alciphron, hearing this, declared that such exactness was to no 
purpose ; that pedants, indeed, may dispute and define, but could 
never reach that high sense of honour which distinguished the fine 
gentleman, and was a thing rather to be felt than explained. 

2. Crito, perceiving that Alciphron could not bear being pressed 
any farther on that article, and willing to give some satisfaction 
to Euphranor, said that of himself indeed he should not undertake 
to explain so nice a point, but he would retail to them part of a 
conversation he once heard between Nlcander a minute philosopher 
and Menecles a Christian, upon the same subject, which was for 
substance as follows. 

M . From what principle are you gentlemen virtuous ? 
N. From honour. We are men of honour. 
M. May not a man of honour debauch another's wife, or 
get drunk, or sell a vote, or refuse to pay his debts, without 
lessening or tainting his honour ? 

no Alcipkron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

N. He may have the vices and faults of a gentleman: 
but is obliged to pays debts of honour, that is, all such as 
are contracted by play. 

M. Is not your man of honour always ready to resent 
affronts and engage in duels ? 

N. He is ready to demand and give gentleman's satisfac- 
tion upon all proper occasions. 

M. It should seem, by this account, that to ruin tradesmen, 
break faith to one's own wife, corrupt another man's, take 
bribes, cheat the public, cut a man's throat for a word, are 
all points consistent with your principle of honour. 

N. It cannot be denied that we are men of gallantry, men 
of fire, men who know the world, and all that. 

M. It seems therefore that honour among infidels is like 

honesty among pirates something confined to themselves, 

and which the fraternity perhaps may find their account in, 

but every one else should be constantly on his guard against. 

By this dialogue, continued Crito, a man who lives out of the 

grand monde may be enabled to form some notion of what the 

world calls honour, and men of honour. 

Euph. I must entreat you not to put me off with Nicander's 
opinion, whom I know nothing of, but rather give me your own 
judgment, drawn from your own observation upon men of honour. 
Cri. If I must pronounce, I can very sincerely assure you that, 
by all I have heard or seen, I could never find that honour, con- 
sidered as a principle distinct from conscience, religion, reason, 
and virtue, was more than an empty name. And I do verily 
believe that those who build upon that notion have less virtue 
than other men ; and that what they have, or seem to have, is owing 
to fashion (being of the reputable kind), if not to a conscience 
early imbued with religious principles, and afterwards retaining a 
tincture from them without knowing it. These two principles 
seem to account for all that looks like virtue in those gentlemen. 
Your men of fashion, in whom animal life abounds, a sort of 
bullies in morality, who disdain to have it thought they are afraid 
of conscience these descant much upon honour, and affect to be 
called men of honour, rather than conscientious or honest men. 
But, by all that I could ever observe, this specious character, 
where there is nothing of conscience or religion underneath, to 

The Third Dialogue. 1 1 1 

give it life and substance, is no better than a meteor or painted 

Euph. I had a confused notion that honour was something 
connected with truth ; and that men of honour were the greatest 
enemies to all hypocrisy, fallacy, and disguise. 

Cri. So far from that, an infidel, who sets up for the nicest 
honour, shall, without the least grain of faith or religion, pretend 
himself a Christian, take any test, join in any act of worship, 
kneel, pray, receive the sacrament, to serve an interest 52 . The 
same person, without any impeachment of his honour, shall most 
solemnly declare and promise, in the face 'of God and the world, 
that he will love his wife, and forsaking all others keep only to 
her, when at the same time it is certain he intends never to 
perform one tittle of his vow ; and convinceth the whole world of 
this as soon as he gets her in his power, and her fortune, for the 
sake of which this man of untainted honour makes no scruple to 
cheat and lie. 

Euph. We have a notion here in the country that it was of all 
things most odious, and a matter of much risk and hazard, to give 
the lie to a man of honour. 

CrL It is very true. He abhors to take the lie, but not to tell it. 

3. 5 ^AlciphrOn, having heard all this with great composure of 
mind and countenance, spake as follows: You are not to think 
that our greatest strength lies in our greatest number libertines, 
and mere men of honour. No : we have among us philosophers 
of a very different character men of curious contemplation, not 
governed by such gross things as sense and custom, but of an 
abstracted virtue and sublime morals: and the less religious the 
more virtuous. For virtue of the high and disinterested kind no 
man is so well qualified as an infidel j it being a mean and selfish 
thing to be virtuous through fear or hope. The notion of a Provi- 
dence, and future state of rewards and punishments, may indeed 
tempt or scare men of abject spirit into practices contrary to the 
natural bent of their souls, but will never produce a true and 

52 Cf. Dial. I. sect. 12. siasts for an original sense of Moral Beauty, 

63 Alciphron here introduces and explains which is discussed in what follows of this 
the theory of Shaftesbury and other enthu- Dialogue. 

112 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

genuine virtue. To go to the bottom of things, to analyse virtue 
into its first principles, and fix a scheme of duty on its true basis, 
you must understand that there is an Idea of Beauty natural to the 
mind of man. This all men desire, this they are pleased and 
delighted with for its own sake, purely from an instinct of nature. 
A man needs no arguments to make him discern and approve 
what is beautiful; it strikes at first sight, and attracts without 
a reason. And as this beauty is found in the shape and form of 
corporeal things; so also is there analogous to it a beauty of 
another kind an order, a symmetry, and comeliness, in the moral 
world. And as the eye 'perceiveth the one, so the mind doth, by a 
certain interior sense r>4 , perceive the other ; which sense, talent, or 
faculty is ever quickest and purest in the noblest minds. Thus, 
as by sight I discern the beauty of a plant or an animal, even so 
the mind apprehends the moral excellence, the beauty, and deco- 
rum of justice and temperance. And as we readily pronounce a 
dress becoming, or an attitude graceful, we can, with the same 
free untutored judgment, at once declare whether this or that 
conduct or action be comely and beautiful. To relish this kind of 
beauty there must be a delicate and fine taste ; but, where there 
is this natural taste, nothing further is wanting, either as a prin- 
ciple to convince, or as a motive to induce men to the love of 
virtue. And more or less there is of this taste or sense in every 
creature that hath reason. All rational beings are by nature social. 
They are drawn one towards another by natural affections. They 
unite and incorporate into families, clubs, parties, and common- 
wealths by mutual sympathy. As, by means of the sensitive soul, 
our several distinct parts and members do consent towards the 
animal functions, and are connected in one whole ; even so, the 
several parts of these rational systems or bodies politic, by virtue 
of this moral or interior sense, are held together, have a fellow 
feeling, do succour and protect each other, and jointly co-operate 
towards the same end. Hence that joy in society, that propension 
towards doing good to our kind, that gratulation and delight in be- 
holding the virtuous deeds of other men, or in reflecting on our 
own. By contemplation of the fitness and order of the parts of a 
moral system, regularly operating, and knit together by benevolent 
affections, the mind of man attaineth to the highest notion of 

54 Cf. sect. 5. 

The Third Dialogue. 1 1 3 

beauty, excellence, and perfection. Seized and rapt with this 
sublime idea, our philosophers do infinitely despise and pity 
whoever shall propose or accept any other motive to virtue. In- 
terest is a mean ungenerous thing, destroying the merit of virtue ; 
and falsehood of every kind is inconsistent with the genuine spirit 
of philosophy. 

Cri. The love therefore that you bear to moral beauty, and your 
passion for abstracted truth, will not suffer you to think with 
patience of those fraudulent impositions upon mankind Provi- 
dence, the Immortality of the SouJ, and a future Retribution of 
rewards and punishments j which, under th*e notion of promoting, 
do, it seems, destroy all true virtue, and at the same time contra- 
dict and disparage your noble theories, manifestly tending to the 
perturbation and disquiet of men's minds, and filling them with 
fruitless hopes and vain terrors 55 . 

Ale. Men's first thoughts and natural notions are the best in 
moral matters. And there is no need that mankind should be 
preached, or reasoned, or frightened into virtue, a thing so natural 
and congenial to every human soul. Now, if this be the case, as 
it certainly is, it follows that all the ends of society are secured 
without Religion, and that an infidel bids fair to be the most 
virtuous rrjan, in a true, sublime, and ht roic sense. 

4. Eufh. O Alciphron, while you talk, I feel an affection in my 
soul like the trembling of one lute upon striking the unison 
strings of another. Doubtless there is a beauty of the mind, a 
charm in virtue, a symmetry and proportion in the moral world. 
This moral beauty was known to the ancients by the name of 
honestum^ or TO KCL\OV^. And, in order to know its force and in- 
fluence, it may not be amiss to inquire, what it was understood to 
be, and what light it was placed in, by those who first considered 
it, and gave it a name. To xaAoi;, according to Aristotle, is the 
c-naivtrbv or laudable^ according to Plato, it is the fjbi> or &0&i/uoir, 
pleasant or profitable, which is meant with respect to a reasonable 
mind and its true interest. Now, I would feign know whether 

53 Many, not all, of the free-thinking 5fl 'The beautiful' (rb KotA&c), applied 

party disowned immortality, and professed ethically, is deeply characteristic of Greek 

to follow virtue for its own sake, without morality, with its fine artistic feeling. 
regard to future retribution. 


H4 Alciphron^ or the Minute Philosopher : 

a mind which considers an action as laudable be ^not carried 
beyond the bare action itself, to regard the opinion of others 
concerning it ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. And whether this be a sufficient ground or principle of 
virtue, for a man to act upon, when he thinks himself removed 
from the eye and observation of every other intelligent being ? 

Ale. It seems not. 

Euph. Again : I ask whether a man who doth a thing pleasant 
or profitable, as such, might not be supposed to forbear doing it, 
or even to do the contrary, upon the prospect of greater pleasure 
or profit ? 

Ale. He might. 

Euph. Doth it not follow from hence that the beauty of virtue, 
or TO /caAor, in either Aristotle's or Plato's sense, is not a sufficient 
principle or ground to engage sensual and worldly-minded men 
in the practice of it ? 

Ale. What then ? 

Euph. Why then it will follow that hope of reward and fear of 
punishment are highly expedient to cast the balance of pleasant 
and profitable on the side of virtue, and thereby very much 
conduce to the benefit of human society. 

Alciphron upon this appealed : Gentlemen, said he, you are 
witnesses of this unfair proceeding of Euphranor, who argues 
against us from explications given by Plato and Aristotle of the 
beauty of virtue, which are things we have nothing to say to the 
philosophers of our sect abstracting from all praise, pleasure, and 
interest, when they are enamoured and transported with that sub- 
lime idea. 

I , beg pardon, replied Euphranor, for supposing the minute 
philosophers of our days think like those ancient sages. But you 
must tell me, Alciphron, since you do not think fit to adopt the 
sense of Plato or Aristotle, what sense it is in which you under- 
stand the beauty of virtue. Define it, explain it, make me to 
understand your meaning, that so we may argue about the same 
thing, without which we can never come to a conclusion. 

5. Ale. Some things are better understood by definitions and 
descriptions ; but I have always observed that those who would 

The Third Dialogue. 115 

define, explain, and dispute about this point make the least of it. 
Moral beauty is of so peculiar and abstracted a nature, something 
so subtle, fine, and fugacious, that it will not bear being handled 
and inspected, like every gross and common subject. You will, 
therefore, pardon me if I stand upon my philosophic liberty ; and 
choose rather to intrench myself within the general and indefinite 
sense, rather than, by entering into a precise and particular 
explication of this beauty, perchance lose sight of it j or give you 
some hold whereon to cavil, and infer, and raise doubts, queries, 
and difficulties about a point as clear as the sun, when nobody 
reasons upon it. * 

Euph. How say you, Alciphron, is that notion clearest when it 
is not considered ? 

Ale. I say it is rather to be felt than understood a certain je 
ne sals quoi. An object, not of the discursive faculty, but of a 
peculiar sense, which is properly called the moral sense v, being 
adapted to the perception of moral beauty, as the eye to colours, 
or the ear to sounds. 

Euph. That men have certain instinctive sensations or passions 
from nature, which make them amiable and useful to each other, 
I am clearly convinced. Such are a fellow-feeling with the dis- 
tressed, a tenderness for our offspring, an affection towards our 
friends, our neighbours, and our country, an indignation against 
things base, cruel, or unjust. These passions are implanted in the 
human soul, with several other fears and appetites, aversions and 
desires, some of which are strongest and uppermost in one mind, 
others in another. Should it not therefore seem a very uncertain 
guide in morals, for a man to follow his passion or inward feeling; 
and would not this rule infallibly lead different men different 
ways, according to the prevalency of this or that appetite or 
passion ? 

Ale. I do not deny it. 

Euph. And will it not follow from hence that duty and virtue 
are in a fairer way of being practised, if men are led by reason 

57 The term 'moral sense' (sensus decori It is so employed by Shaftesbury, in his 

et bone&ti of ancient moralists) came into Inquiry concerning Virtue (1699) ; and 

current use about the time Berkeley wrote afterwards frequently by Francis Hutcheson, 

as a designation for conscience, regarded in his Inquiry into the Origin of Ideas of 

as cognizant of the morality of actions in Beauty and Virtue (1725), and his Ulustra- 

a way analogous to the perception of the tions upon the Moral Sense (1728). 
qualities of matter in the external senses. 

ii6 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

and judgment, balancing low and sensual pleasures with those of a 
higher kind, comparing present losses with future gains, and the 
uneasiness and disgust of every vice with the delightful practice of 
the opposite virtue, and the pleasing reflections and hopes which 
attend it ? Or can there be a stronger motive to virtue than the 
shewing that, considered in all lights, it is every man's true 

6. Ale. I tell you, Euphranor, we contemn the virtue of that 
man who computes and deliberates, and must have a reason for 
being virtuous. The refined moralists of our sect are ravished 
and transported with the abstract beauty of virtue. They disdain 
all forensic motives to it ; and love virtue only for virtue's sake. 
Oh rapture ! oh enthusiasm ! oh the quintessence of beauty ! 
methinks I could dwell for ever on this contemplation : but, rather 
than entertain myself, I must endeavour to convince you. Make 
an experiment on the first man you meet. Propose a villainous or 
unjust action. Take his first sense of the matter, and you shall 
find he detests it. He may, indeed, be afterwards misled by 
arguments, or overpowered by temptation ; but his original, un- 
premeditated, and genuine thoughts are just and orthodox. How 
can we account for this but by a moral sense, which, left to itself, 
hath as quick and true a perception of the beauty and deformity of 
human actions as the eye hath of colours ? 

Euph. May not this be sufficiently accounted for by conscience, 
affection, passion, education, reason, custom, religion; which 
principles and habits, for aught I know, may be what you meta- 
phorically call a moral sense ? 

Ale. What I call a moral sense is strictly, properly, and truly 
such, and in kind different from all those things you enumerate. 
It is what all men have, though all may not observe it. 

Upon this Euphranor smiled and said Alciphron has made 
discoveries where I least expected it. For, said he, in regard to 
every other point I should hope to learn from him ; but for the 
knowledge of myself, or the faculties and powers of my own 
mind, I should have looked at home. And there I might have 
looked long enough without finding this new talent, which even 
now, after being tutored, I cannot comprehend. For Alciphron, I 
must needs say, is too sublime and enigmatical upon a point 

The Third Dialogue. 117 

which of all others ought to be most clearly understood. I have 
often heard that your deepest adepts and oldest professors in 
science are the obscurest. Lysicles is young, and speaks plain. 
Would he but favour us with his sense of this point, it might 
perhaps prove more upon a level with my apprehension. 

7. Lysicles shook his head, and in a grave and earnest manner 
addressed the company. Gentlemen, said he, Alciphron stands 
upon his own legs. I have no part in these refined notions he is 
at present engaged to defend. If I must subdue my passions, 
abstract, contemplate, be enamoured of virtue ; in a word, if I 
must be an enthusiast, I owe so much deference to the laws of 
my country as to choose being an enthusiast in their way. 
Besides, it is better being so for some end than for none. This 
doctrine hath all the solid inconveniences, without the amusing 
hopes and prospects, of the Christian. 

Ale. I never counted on Lysicles for my second in this point ; 
which after all doth not need his assistance or explication. All 
subjects ought not to be treated in the same manner. The way of 
definition and division is dry and pedantic. Besides, the subject 
is sometimes too obscure, sometimes too simple for this method. 
One while we know too little of a point, another too much, to 
make it plainer by discourse. 

Crl. To hear Alciphron talk puts me in mind of that ingenious 
Greek who, having wrapped a man's brother up in a cloak, asked 
him whether he knew that person j being ready, either by keeping 
on or pulling off* the cloak, to confute his answer whatever it 
should be. For my part, I believe, if matters were fairly stated, 
that rational satisfaction, that peace of mind, that inward comfort, 
and conscientious joy, which a good Christian finds in good 
actions, would not be found to fall short of all the ecstasy, rapture, 
and enthusiasm supposed to be the effect of that high and 
undescribed principle. In earnest, can any ecstasy be higher, 
any rapture more affecting, than that which springs from the 
love of God and man, from a conscience void of offence, and an 
inward discharge of duty, with the secret delight, trust, and hope 
that attend it ? 

Ale. O Euphranor, we votaries of truth do not envy but pity 
the groundless joys and mistaken hopes of a Christian. And, as 

ii3 Alciphron, or i/te Minute Philosopher : 

for conscience and rational pleasure, how can We allow a con- 
science without allowing a vindictive Providence? Or how can 
we suppose the charm of virtue consists in any pleasure or benefit 
attending virtuous actions, without giving great advantages to 
the Christian religion, which, it seems, excites its believers to 
virtue by the highest interests and pleasures in reversion. Alas ! 
should we grant this, there would be a door opened to all those 
rusty declaimers upon the necessity and usefulness of the great 
points of Faith the immortality of the soul, a future state, re- 
wards and punishments, and the like exploded conceits; which, 
according to our system and principles, may perhaps produce a low, 
popular, interested kind of virtue, but must absolutely destroy 
and extinguish it in the sublime and heroic sense. 

8. Eufh. What you now say is very intelligible : I wish 1 under- 
stood your main principle as well. 

Ale. And are you then in earnest at a loss ? Is it possible you 
should have no notion of beauty, or that having it you should not 
know it to be amiable amiable I say, in itself, and for itself? 

Euph. Pray tell me, Alciphron, are all mankind agreed in the 
notion of a beauteous face ? 

Ale. Beauty in human-kind seems to be of a mixed and various 
nature; forasmuch as the passions, sentiments, and qualities of 
the soul, being seen through and blending with the features, work 
differently on different minds, as the sympathy is more or less. 
But with regard to other things is there no steady principle of 
beauty ? Is there upon earth a human mind without the idea of 
order, harmony, and proportion ? 

Euph. O Alciphron, it is my weakness that I am apt to be lost 
and bewildered in abstractions and generalities, but a particular 
thing is better suited to my faculties 58 . I find it easy to consider 
and keep in view the objects of sense: let us therefore try to 
discover what their beauty is, or wherein it consists ; and so, by 
the help of these sensible things 59 , as a scale or ladder, ascend 
to moral and intelligible beauty. Be pleased then to inform me, 
what is it we call beauty in the objects of sense ? 

68 Cf. Principles of Human Knowledge, What follows, in this and the next section, 
Introduction, sect. 6 17. relates to the theory of beauty in the sen- 

59 Cf. Siris, in its general conception. sible world, and especially in architecture. 

The Third Dialogue. 1 1 9 

Ale. Every one knows beauty is that which pleases. 

Euph. There is then beauty in the smell of a rose, or the taste 
of an apple ? 

Ale. By no means. Beauty is, to speak properly, perceived only 
by the eye. 

Euph, It cannot therefore be defined in general that which 
pleaseth ? 

Ale. 1 grant it cannot. 

Euph. How then shall we limit or define it ? 

Alciphron, after a short pause, said that beauty consisted in a 
certain symmetry or proportion pleasing to the eye. 

Euph. Is this proportion one and the same in all things, or is 
it different in different kinds of things ? 

Ale. Different, doubtless. The proportions of an ox would not 
be beautiful in a horse. And we may observe also in things 
inanimate, that the beauty of a table, a chair, a door, consists 
in different proportions. 

Euph. Doth not this proportion imply the relation of one thing 
to another ? 

Ale. It doth. 

Euph. And are not these relations founded in size and shape ? 

Ale. They are. 

Euph. And, to make the proportions just, must not those mu- 
tual relations of size and shape in the parts be such as shall 
make the whole complete and perfect in its kind ? 

Ale. I grant they must. 

Euph. Is not a thing said to be perfect in its kind when it 
answers the end for which it was made ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. The parts, therefore, in true proportions must be so 
related, and adjusted to one another, as that they may best 
conspire to the use and operation of the whole ? 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. But the comparing parts one with another, the considering 
them as belonging to one whole, and referring this whole to its 
use or end, should seem the work of reason : should it not ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. Proportions, therefore, are not, strictly speaking, perceived 
by the sense of sight, but only by reason through the means of sight. 

I2O Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

Ale. This I grant. 

Euph. Consequently beauty, in your sense of it, is an object, 
not of the eye, but of the mind. 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. The eye, therefore, alone cannot see that a chair is hand- 
some, or a door well proportioned. 

Ale. It seems to follow j but I am not clear as to this point. 

Euph. Let us see if there be any difficulty in it. Could the 
chair you sit on, think you, be reckoned well proportioned or 
handsome, if it had not such a height, breadth, wideness, and was 
not so far reclined as to afford a convenient seat? 

Ale. It could not. 

Euph. The beauty, therefore, or symmetry of a chair cannot be 
apprehended but by knowing its use, and comparing its figure with 
that use ; which cannot be done by the eye alone, but is the effect 
of judgment. It is, therefore, one thing to see an object, and 
another to discern its beauty. 

Ale. I admit this to be true. 

9. Euph. The architects judge a door to be of a beautiful pro- 
portion, when its height is double of the breadth. But if you 
should invert a well-proportioned door, making its breadth become 
the height, and its height the breadth, the figure would still be 
the same, but without that beauty in one situation which it had 
in another. What can be the cause of this, but that, in the fore- 
mentioned supposition, the door would not yield convenient en- 
trances to creatures of a human figure ? But, if in any other part 
of the universe there should be supposed rational animals of an 
inverted stature, they must be supposed to invert the rule for pro- 
portion of doors ; and to them that would appear beautiful which 
to us was disagreeable. 

Ale. Against this I have no objection. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, is there not something truly decent 
and beautiful in dress ? 

Ale. Doubtless, there is. 

Euph. Are any likelier to give us an idea of this beauty in dress 
than painters and sculptors, whose proper business and study it is 
to aim at graceful representations ? 

Ale. I believe not. 

The Third Dialogue. 121 

Euph. Let us then examine the draperies of the great masters in 
these arts : how, for instance, they use to clothe a matron, or 
a man of rank. Cast an eye on those figures (said he, pointing to 
some prints after Raphael and Guido, that hung upon the wall) 
what appearance do you think an English courtier or magistrate, 
with his Gothic, succinct, plaited garment, and his full-bottomed 
wig; or one of our ladies in her unnatural dress, pinched and 
stiffened and enlarged, with hoops and whale-bone and buckram, 
must make, among those figures so decently clad in draperies that 
fall into such a variety of natural, easy, and ample folds, that 
appear with so much dignity and simplicity, that cover the body 
without encumbering it, and adorn without altering the shape ? 

Ale. Truly I think they must make a very ridiculous ap- 

Euph. And what do you think this proceeds from ? Whence is 
it that the Eastern nations, the Greeks, and the Romans, naturally 
ran into the most becoming dresses; while our Gothic gentry, 
after so many centuries racking their inventions, mending, and 
altering, and improving, and whirling about in a perpetual rota- 
tion of fashions, have never yet had the luck to stumble on 
any that was not absurd and ridiculous? Is it not from hence 
that, instead of consulting use, reason, and convenience, they 
abandon themselves to irregular fancy, the unnatural parent of 
monsters? Whereas the ancients, considering the use and end 
of dress, made it subservient to the freedom, ease, and con- 
venience of the body; and, having no notion of mending or 
changing the natural shape, they aimed only at shewing it with 
decency and advantage. And, if this be so, are we not to 
conclude that the beauty of dress depends on its subserviency 
to certain ends and uses? 

Ale. This appears to be true. 

Euph. This subordinate relative nature of beauty, perhaps, will 
be yet plainer, if we examine the respective beauties of a horse 
and a pillar. Virgil's description of the former is 

llli ardua cervix, 

Argutumque caput, brevis alvus, obesaque terga, 
Luxuriatque toris animosum pectus. 

Now, I would fain know whether the perfections and uses of a 
horse may not be reduced to these three points, courage, strength, 

122 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

and speed ; and whether each of the beauties enumerated doth not 
occasion or betoken one of these perfections? After the same 
manner, if we inquire into the parts and proportions of a beau- 
tiful pillar, we shall perhaps find them answer to the same idea. 
Those who have considered the theory of architecture tell us 60 
the proportions of the three Grecian orders were taken from the 
human body, as the most beautiful and perfect production of 
nature. Hence were derived those graceful ideas of columns, 
which had a character of strength without clumsiness, or of 
delicacy without weakness. Those beautiful proportions were, 
I say, taken originally from nature, which, in her creatures, as 
hath been already observed, referreth them to some end, use, 
or design. The gonfezza also, or swelling, and the diminution 
of a pillar, is it not in such proportion as to make it appear strong 
and light at the same time ? In the same manner, must not 
the whole entablature, with its projections, be so proportioned, 
as to seem great but not heavy, light but not little j inasmuch 
as a deviation into either extreme would thwart that reason and 
use of things wherein their beauty is founded, and to which it is 
subordinate? The entablature, and all its parts and ornaments, 
architrave, frieze, cornice, triglyphs, metopes, modiglions, and the 
rest, have each a use or appearance of use, in giving firmness and 
union to the building, in protecting it from the weather and 
casting off the rain, in representing the ends of beams with their 
intervals, the production of rafters, and so forth. And if we 
consider the graceful angles in frontispieces, the spaces between 
the columns, or the ornaments of their capitals shall we not find, 
that their beauty riseth from the appearance of use, or the 
imitation of natural things, whose beauty is originally founded 
on the same principle? which is, indeed, the grand distinction 
between Grecian and Gothic architecture ; the latter being fan- 
tastical, and for the most part founded neither in nature nor in 
reason, in necessity nor use, the appearance of which accounts 
for all the beauty, grace, and ornament of the other. 

Cri. What Euphranor has said confirms the opinion I always 
entertained that the rules of architecture were founded, as all 

60 [See the learned Patriarch of Aquileia's fostered in Italy, has been already referred 
Commentary on Vitnivius, lib. IV. cap. I.] to. Cf. Dial. II. sect. 15, note, 
AUTHOR. Berkeley's taste in architecture, 

The Third Dialogue. 123 

other arts which flourished among the Greeks, in truth, and 
nature, and good sense. But the ancients, who, from a thorough 
consideration of the grounds and principles of art, formed their 
idea of beauty, did not always confine themselves strictly to 
the same rules and proportions; but, whenever the particular 
distance, position, elevation, or dimension of the fabric or its 
parts seemed to require it, made no scruple to depart from 
them, without deserting the original principles of beauty, which 
governed whatever deviations they made. This latitude or licence 
might not, perhaps, be safely trusted with most modern architects, 
who in their bold sallies seem to act without aim or design; 
and to be governed by no idea, no reason, or principle of art, 
but pure caprice, joined with a thorough contempt of that noble 
simplicity of the ancients, without which there can be no unity, 
gracefulness, or grandeur in their works; which of consequence 
must serve only to disfigure and dishonour the nation, being so 
many monuments to future ages of the opulence and ill taste 
of the present; which, it is to be feared, would succeed as 
wretchedly, and make as mad work in other affairs, were men 
to follow, instead of rules, precepts, and morals, their own taste 
and first thoughts of beauty. 

Ale. I should now, methinks, be glad to see a little more 
distinctly the use and tendency of this digression upon ar- 

Euph. Was not beauty the very thing we inquired after ? 

Ale. It was. 

Euph. What think you, Alciphron, can the appearance of a 
thing please at this time, and in this place, which pleased two 
thousand years ago, and two thousand miles off, without some 
real principle of beauty ? 

Ale. It cannot. 

Euph. And is not this the case with respect to a just piece 
of architecture? 

Ale. Nobody denies it. 

Euph. Architecture, the noble offspring of judgment and fancy, 
was gradually formed in the most polite and knowing countries 
of Asia, Egypt, Greece, and Italy. It was cherished and es- 
teemed by the most flourishing states and most renowned 
princes, who with vast expense improved and brought it to per- 

124 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

fection. It seems, above all other arts, peculiarly conversant 
about order, proportion, and symmetry. May it not therefore 
be supposed, on all accounts, most likely to help us to some 
rational notion of the je ne sats quoi, in beauty ? And, in effect, 
have we not learned from this digression that, as there is no 
beauty without proportion, so proportions are to be esteemed 
just and true, only as they are relative to some certain use or 
end, their aptitude and subordination to which end is, at bottom, 
that which makes them please and charm ? 

Ale. I admit all this to be true. 

10. Eufh. According to this doctrine, I would fain know what 
beauty 61 can be found in a moral system, formed, connected, and 
governed by chance, fate, or any other blind unthinking principle ? 
Forasmuch as without thought there can be no end or design 
and without an end there can be no use- and without use there 
is no aptitude or fitness of proportion, from whence beauty 

Ale. May we not suppose a certain vital principle of beauty, 
order, and harmony, diffused throughout the world, without sup- 
posing a Providence inspecting, punishing, and rewarding the 
moral actions of men ; without supposing the immortality of 
the soul, or a life to come ; in a word, without admitting any 
part of what is commonly called Faith, Worship, and Religion ? 

Cri. Either you suppose this principle intelligent, or not in- 
telligent : if the latter, it is all one with chance or fate, which 
was just now argued against: if the former, let me entreat 
Alciphron to explain to me wherein consists the beauty of a 
moral system, with a supreme Intelligence at the head of it 
which neither protects the innocent, punishes the wicked, nor 
rewards the virtuous. To suppose indeed a society of rational 
agents, acting under the eye of Providence, concurring in one 
design to promote the common benefit of the whole, and con- 
forming their actions to the established laws and order of the 
Divine parental wisdom: wherein each particular agent shall 
not consider himself apart, but as the member of a great City, 
whose author and founder is God: in which the civil laws are 

61 The analogy between the sense of Hutcheson (who combines them in his 7- 
beauty and the moral sense is suggested by quiry), as well as by Shaftesbury. 

The Third Dialogue. 125 

no other than the rules of virtue and the duties of religion: 
and where every one's true interest is combined with his duty : 
to suppose this would be delightful : on this supposition a man 
need be no Stoic or knight-errant, to account for his virtue. In 
such a system, vice is madness, cunning is folly, wisdom and 
virtue are the same thing; where, notwithstanding all the crooked 
paths and by-roads, the wayward appetites and inclinations of 
men, sovereign reason is sure to reform whatever seems amiss, 
to reduce that which is devious, make straight that which is 
crooked, and, in the last act, wind up the whole plot according 
to the exactest rules of wisdom and justice. In such a system 
or society, governed by the wisest precepts, enforced by th? 
highest rewards and discouragements, it is delightful to consider 
how the regulation of laws, the distribution of good and evil, 
the aim of moral agents, do all conspire in due subordination 
to promote the noblest end, to wit, the complete happiness or 
well-being of the whole. In contemplating the beauty of such 
a moral system, we may cry out with the Psalmist c Very ex- 
cellent things are spoken of thee, thou City of God/ 

ii. In a system of spirits, subordinate to the will, and under 
the direction of the Father of spirits, governing them by laws, 
and conducting them by methods suitable to wise and good ends, 
there will be great beauty. But in an incoherent fortuitous 
system, governed by chance, or in a blind system, governed by 
fate, or in any system where Providence doth not preside, how 
can beauty be, which cannot be without order, which cannot be 
without design? When a man is conscious that his will is 
inwardly conformed to the Divine will, producing order and 
harmony in the universe, and conducting the whole by the justest 
methods to the best end: this gives a beautiful idea. But, on 
the other hand, a consciousness of virtue overlooked, neglected, 
distressed by men, and not regarded or rewarded by God, ill-used 
in this world, without hope or prospect of being better used in 
another I would fain know where is the pleasure of this re- 
flection, where is the beauty of this scene ? Or, how could any 
man in his senses think the spreading such notions the way 
to spread or propagate virtue in the world ? Is it not, I beseech 
you, an ugly system in which you can suppose no law and prove 

126 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

no duty, wherein men thrive by wickedness and suffer by virtue ? 
Would it not be a disagreeable sight to see an honest man 
peeled by sharpers, to see virtuous men injured and despised 
while vice triumphed ? An enthusiast may entertain himself with 
visions and fine talk about such a system; but when it comes 
to be considered by men of cool heads and close reason, I be- 
lieve they will find no beauty nor perfection in it; nor will it 
appear that such a moral system can possibly come from the 
same hand, or be of a piece with the natural, throughout which 
there shine so much order, harmony, and proportion. 

Ale. Your discourse serves to confirm me in my opinion. You 
may remember, I declared that touching this beauty of morality 
in the high sense, a man's first thoughts are the best ; and that, 
if we pretend to examine, inspect, and reason, we are in danger 
to lose sight of it. That in fact there is such a thing cannot 
be doubted, when we consider that in these days some of our 
philosophers have a high sense of virtue, without the least notion 
of religion a clear proof of the usefulness and efficacy of our 
principles ! 

12. Cri. Not to dispute the virtue of minute philosophers, we 
may venture to call its cause in question, and make a doubt 
whether it be an inexplicable enthusiastic notion of moral beauty, 
or rather, as to me it seems, what was already assigned by 
Euphranor complexion, custom, and religious education? But, 
allowing what beauty you please to virtue in an irreligious system, 
it cannot be less in a religious, unless you will suppose that 
her charms diminish as her dowry increaseth. The truth is, a 
believer hath all the motives from the beauty of virtue in any 
sense whatsoever that an unbeliever can possibly have, besides 
other motives which an unbeliever hath not. Hence, it is plain 
those of your sect who have moral virtue owe it not to their 
peculiar tenets, which serve only to lessen the motives to 
virtue. Those, therefore, who are good are less good, and those 
who- are bad are more bad, than they would have been were 
they believers. 

Euph. To me it seems those heroic infidel inamoratos of ab- 
stracted beauty are much to be pitied, and much to be admired. 

Lysicles hearing this, said with some impatience : Gentlemen, 

The Third Dialogue. 127 

you shall have my whole thoughts upon this point plain and frank. 
All that is said about a moral sense, or moral beauty, in any 
signification, either of Alciphron, or Euphranor, or any other, I 
take to be at bottom mere bubble and pretence. The /caAoz' and the 
TTptirov., the beautiful and decent^ are things outward, relative, and 
superficial, which have no effect in the dark, but are specious 
topics to discourse and expatiate upon, as some formal pretenders 
of our sect, though in other points very orthodox, are used to do. 
But should one of them get into power, you would find him no 
such fool as Euphranor imagines. He would soon shew he had 
found out that the love of one's country is a prejudice: that 
mankind are rogues and hypocrites, and that it were folly to 
sacrifice pne's-self for the sake of such: that all regards centre 
in this life, and that, as this life is to every man his own life, it 
clearly follows that charity begins at home. Benevolence to 
mankind is perhaps pretended, but benevolence to himself is 
practised by the wise. The livelier sort of our philosophers do 
not scruple to own these maxims ; and as for the graver, if they 
are true to their principles, one may guess what they must think 
at the bottom. 

Cri. Whatever may be the effect of pure theory upon certain 
select spirits, of a peculiar make, or in some other parts of the 
world, I do verily think that in this country of ours, reason, 
religion, and law are all together little enough to subdue the 
outward to the inner man ; and that it must argue a wrong head 
and weak judgment to suppose that without them men will be 
enamoured of the golden mean. To which my countrymen perhaps 
are less inclined than others, there being in the make of an 
English mind 6 ' 2 a certain gloom and eagerness, which carries to 
the sad extreme religion to fanaticism; free-thinking to atheism; 
liberty to rebellion: nor should we venture to be governed by 
taste, even in matters of less consequence. The beautiful in 
dress, furniture, and building is, as Euphranor hath observed, 
something real and well grounded: and yet our English do not 
find it out of themselves. What wretched work do they and other 
northern people make when they follow their own taste of beauty 
in any of these particulars, instead of acquiring the true, which 
is to be got from ancient models and the principles of art, as 

62 Cf. Dial. II. sect. 17. 

128 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

in the case of virtue from great models and meditation, so far 
as natural means can go? But in no case is it to be hoped 
that ro KCL\OV will be the leading idea of the many, who have 
quick senses, strong passions, and gross intellects. 

13. Ale. The fewer they are the more ought we to esteem and 
admire such philosophers, whose souls are touched and transported 
with this sublime idea. 

Cri. But then one might expect from such philosophers so much 
good sense and philanthropy as to keep their tenets to themselves, 
and consider their weak brethren, who are more strongly affected 
by certain senses and notions of another kind than that of the 
beauty of pure disinterested virtue. 

Cratylus 63 , a man prejudiced against the Christian religion, of 
a crazy constitution, of a rank above most men's ambition, and 
a fortune equal to his rank, had little capacity for sensual vices, 
or temptation to dishonest ones. Cratylus, having talked himself, 
or imagined that he had talked himself, into a stoical enthusiasm 
about the beauty of virtue, did, under the pretence of making 
men heroically virtuous, endeavour to destroy the means of making 
them reasonably and humanly so: a clear instance that neither 
birth, nor books, nor conversation can introduce a knowledge of 
the world into a conceited mind, which will ever be its own object, 
and contemplate mankind in its own mirror ! 

Ale. Cratylus was a lover of liberty, and of his country, and 
had a mind to make men incorrupt and virtuous upon the purest 
and most disinterested principles. 

Cri. [ 6< It is true the main scope of all his writings (as he him- 
self tells us) was to assert the reality of a beauty and charm in 
moral as well as in natural subjects ; to demonstrate a taste which 
he thinks more effectual than principle; to recommend morals 
on the same foot with manners; and so to advance philosophy 
on the very foundation of what is called agreeable and polite. 
As for religious qualms the belief of a future state of rewards 
and punishments, and such mattersthis great man sticks not 
to declare that the liberal, polished, and refined part of mankind 

88 Shaftesbury. omitted in the collected editions of Berke- 

84 What follows, within brackets, was ley's Works, 
added in the second edition, but has been 

The Third Dialogue. 129 

must needs consider them only as children's tales and amusements 
of the vulgar. For the sake therefore of the better sort, he hath, 
in great goodness and wisdom, thought of something else, to wit, 
a taste or relish : this, he assures us, is at least what will influence ; 
since, according to him, whoever has any impression of gentility 
(as he calls it) or politeness, is so acquainted with the decorum 
and grace of things as to be readily transported with the con- 
templation thereof 6:> .] His conduct seems just as wise as if a 
monarch should give out that there was neither jail nor execu- 
tioner in his kingdom to enforce the laws, but that it would be 
beautiful to observe them, and that in so doing men would taste 
the pure delight which results from order and decorum. 

Ale. After all, is it not true that certain ancient philosophers, 
of great note, held the same opinion with Cratylus, declaring that 
he did not come up to the character, or deserve the title of a good 
man, who practised virtue for the sake of anything but its own 
beauty ? 

Crt. I believe, indeed, that some of the ancients said such 
things as gave occasion for this opinion. 

Aristotle 66 distinguisheth between two characters of a good 
man the one he callcth dyatfoy, or simply good ; the other 
KaXos KqyaObs, from whence the compound term KaXoKqyaOCa, 
which cannot, perhaps, be rendered by any one word in our 
language. But his sense is plainly this : dyatfos he defineth to 
be, that man to whom the good things of nature are good : for, 
according to him, those things which are vulgarly esteemed the 
greatest goods, as riches, honours, power, and bodily perfections, 
are indeed good by nature, but they happen nevertheless 
to be hurtful and bad to some persons, upon the account of 
evil habits; inasmuch as neither a fool, nor an unjust man, 
nor an intemperate, can be at all the better for the use of them, 
any more than a sick man for using the nourishment proper 
for those who are in health. But KaAos Kayaflos is that man 
in whom are to be found all things worthy ai.d decent and 
laudable, purely as such and for their own sake, and who prac- 
tiseth virtue from no other motive than the sole love of her 
own innate beauty. That philosopher observes likewise that 

65 [See Characteristics, vol. III. Miscel. 5, 66 \Etbic. ad Eudemum, lib. VII. cap, ult.] 
cap. 3 ; Miscel. 3, cap. 2.] AUTHOR. AUTHOR. 


130 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

there is a certain political habit, such as the Spartans and others 
had, who thought virtue was to be valued and practised on account 
of the natural advantages that attend it. For which reason, he 
adds, they are indeed good men, but they have not the xaAo/cayaflia, 
or supreme consummate virtue. From hence it is plain that, 
according to Aristotle, a man may be a good man without be- 
lieving virtue its own reward, or being only moved to virtue 
by the sense of moral beauty. It is also plain that he distin- 
guisheth the political virtues of nations, which the public is every- 
where concerned to maintain, from this sublime and speculative 

It might also be observed that his exalted idea did consist 
with supposing a Providence which inspects and rewards the 
virtues of the best men. For, saith he, in another place 66 If 
the gods have any care of human affairs, as it appears they have 6 ?, 
it should seem reasonable to suppose they are most delighted with 
the most excellent nature, and most approaching their own, which 
is the mind, and that they will reward those who chiefly love and 
cultivate what is most dear to them. The same philosopher 
observes 68 , that the bulk of mankind are not naturally disposed 
to be awed by shame, but by fear; nor to abstain from vicious 
practices on account of their deformity, but only of the punish- 
ment which attends them. And again 6 9, he tells us that youth, 
being of itself averse from abstinence and sobriety, should be 
under the restraint of laws regulating their education and em- 
ployment, and that the same discipline should be continued even 
after they became men. For which, saith he, we want laws, 
and, in one word, for the whole ordering of life ; inasmuch as the 
generality of mankind obey rather force than reason, and are 
influenced rather by penalties than the beauty of virtue (fq/ufats r\ 

T<5 KdAxS). 

From all which, it is very plain what Aristotle would have 
thought of those who should go about to lessen or destroy the 

66 [Ad Nicom. lib. X. cap. 8.] AUTHOR. I. 10, II ; III. 6,) or at least views the 

67 * as it appears they have' faairep tioictT, problems of Ethics as unaffected by a regard 
in the original, which merely indicates that to such matters, virtue being superior to the 
the opinion of a Divine Providence is held, accidents of time. Aristotle and Shaftesbury, 
but without pronouncing upon its truth or accordingly, are here more akin than Crito 
falsehood. Aristotle, unlike Plato, generally allows. 

evades a decision about the immortality of 68 [Ad Nicom. lib. X.cap. TO.] AUTHOR. 
the soul and a future life, (cf. Nicom. Etbics, 69 \Ad Nicom. lib. X. cap. 9.] AUTHOR. 

The Third Dialogue. 131 

hopes and fears of mankind, in order to make them virtuous on 
this sole principle of the beauty of virtue. 

14. Ale. But, whatever the Stagirite and his Peripatetics might 
think, is jt not certain that the Stoics maintained this doctrine 
in its highest sense, asserting the beauty of virtue to be all- 
sufficient, that virtue was her own reward, that this alone could 
make a man happy, in spite of all those things which are vulgarly 
esteemed the greatest woes and miseries of human life ? And all 
this they held at the same time that they believed the soul of man 
to be of a corporeal nature, and in death dissipated like a flame 
or vapour. 

Cri. It must be owned the Stoics sometimes talk as if they 
believed the mortality of the soul? . Seneca, in a letter of his to 
Lucilius, speaks much like a minute philosopher in this particular. 
But, in several other places, he declares himself of a clear contrary 
opinion, affirming that the souls of men after death mount aloft 
into the heavens, look down upon earth, entertain themselves with 
the theory of celestial bodies, the course of nature, and the conver- 
sation of wise and excellent men, who, having lived in distant ages 
and countries upon earth, make one society in the other world. 

It must also be acknowledged that Marcus Antoninus some- 
times speaks of the soul as perishing, or dissolving into its ele- 
mentary parts. But it is to be noted that he distinguished three 
principles in the composition of human nature the <r<3/xa, \^t>x?k 
rous? 1 , body, soul, mind , or, as he otherwise expresseth himself 
<rap*aa, wev/x<tuoi>, and fiy^oviKov -flesh, spirit, and governing prin- 
ciple^. What he calls the ^vyy* or soul, containing the brutal 
part of our nature, is indeed represented as a compound dissoluble, 
and actually dissolved by death; but the vovs, or TO fiyeiJ.oviK.ov 73 
the mind, or ruling principle he held to be of a pure celestial nature, 
6(ov aTroWaoyxa, a particle of God, which he sends back entire 
to the stars and the Divinity. Besides, among all his magnificent 

70 Seneca and Marcus Aurelius are the taught a pantheistic necessarianism, alien to 

only authorities referred to by Crito in the belief in the immortality of the individual, 

support of his view of the Stoical doctrine though not absolutely, inconsistent with it. 
of the relation of morality to religion in- 71 [Marc. Antonin. lib. III. cap. 1 6.] 

adequate in the light of recent research. AUTHOR. 

Cf. even Siris, sect. 153, 172, 185, 276, 7a Compare this with St. Paul, I Thessal. 

302, 323, &c. See Zeller's Pbilosopbie der v. 23, who adopts a similar division. 
Griecbsm, vol. III. Most Stoics seem to have 7S Cf. Siris, sect. 1 60, 172, 326. 

132 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

lessons and splendid sentiments upon the force and beauty of 
virtue, he is positive as to the being of God ; and that not merely 
as a plastic nature, or soul of the world, but in the strict sense of 
a Providence inspecting and taking care of human affairs? 4 . 

The Stoics, therefore, though their style was high, and often 
above truth and nature, yet it cannot be said that they so resolved 
every motive to a virtuous life into the sole beauty of virtue 
as to endeavour to destroy the belief of the immortality of the 
soul and a distributive Providence. After all, allowing the dis- 
interested Stoics (therein not unlike our modern Quietists) to have 
made virtue its own sol6 reward, in the most rigid and absolute 
sense, yet what is this to those who are no Stoics ? If we adopt 
the whole principles of that sect, admitting their notions of good 
and evil, their celebrated apathy, and, in one word, setting up 
for complete Stoics, we may possibly maintain this doctrine with 
a better grace ; at least it will be of a piece, and consistent with 
the whole. But he who shall borrow this splendid patch from 
the Stoics, and hope to make a figure by inserting it into a 
piece of modern composition, seasoned with the wit and notions 
of these times, will indeed make a figure, but perhaps it may 
not be in the eyes of a wise man the figure he intended? 3 . 

74 [Marc. Antonin. lib. II. cap. 1 1 .] confessed that, if it be true piety to love 
AUTHOR. God for His own sake, the over-solicitous 

75 Cf. Dial. VII. sect. 13, and Guardian,No. regard to private good expected from Him, 
2 7 55 83. In his Characteristics, Shaftes- must of necessity prove a diminution of 
bury is fond of taking exception to the doc- piety/ (Characteristics, vol. II. 58, 59.) ' To 
trine of rewards and punishments in a future be bribed only or terrified into an honest 
life, as adverse to the absolute sufficiency practice bespeaks little of real honesty or 

of virtue as an end in itself, and to the com- worth If virtue be not really es- 

mon, human motives to goodness : ' In this timable in itself, I can see nothing estimable 

religious sort of discipline, the principle of in following it for the sake of a bargain.' 

self-love, which is naturally so prevailing in (vol. I. p. 97.) ... * The saving of souls is 

us, being no way moderated or restrained, now the heroic passion of exalted wits.' (vol. 

but rather improved and made stronger I. p. 19.) Cf. Characteristics, vol. II. pp. 

every day, by the exercise of the passions in 54 57, 68, 69, 270 273, &c. These 

a subject of more extended self-interest ; passages justly condemn the servile religion 

. there may be reason to apprehend lest the which is neither moral nor religious. But 

temper of this kind should extend itself if, with the most enlightened philosophers 

in general through all the parts of life. and theologians, we mean by the desire of 

For, if the habit be such as to occasion in ' heaven' the desire of perpetual and absolute 

every particular a stricter attention to self- goodness, for its own sake ; and by ' salva- 

good and private interest, it must insensibly tion,' a life in conformity to universal law, 

diminish the affections towards public good, under a Divine moral government, then re- 

or the interest of society, and introduce a ligious trust in a future life, so far from 

certain narrowness of spirit which, as some being derogatory to a pure and generous 

pretend, is peculiarly observable in the de- morality, is itself an evidence of it. The 

vout persons and zealots of almost every Characteristics may be regarded as an attack 

religious persuasion. This, too, must be upon the abuse of this truth. 

The Third Dialogue. 133 

15. Though it must be owned the present age is very indulgent 
to everything that aims at profane raillery; which is alone suf- 
ficient to recommend any fantastical composition to the public. 
You may behold the tinsel of a modern author pass upon this 
knowing and learned age for good writing; affected strains for 
wit ; pedantry for politeness ; obscurity for depths ; ramblings for 
flights; the most awkward imitation for original humour; and 
all this upon the sole merit of a little artful profaneness. 

Ale. Every one is not alike pleased with writings of humour, nor 
alike capable of them. It is the fine irony of a man of quality ? 6 , 
c that certain reverend authors, who can condescend to lay-wit, are 
nicely qualified to hit the air of breeding and gentility, and 
that they will in time, no doubt, refine their manner to the 
edification of the polite world; who have been so seduced by 
the way of raillery and wit.' The truth is, the various taste 
of readers requireth various kinds of writers. Our sect hath 
provided for this with great judgment. To proselyte the graver 
sort, we have certain profound men at reason and argument. 
For the coffee-houses and populace, we have declaimers of a 
copious vein. Of such a writer it is no reproach to say, flult 
lutulentus -, he is the fitter for his readers. Then, for men of rank 
and politeness, we have the finest and wittiest railleurs in the 
world, whose ridicule is the surest test of truths. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, are those ingenious railleurs men 
of knowledge? 

Ale. Very knowing. 

Euph. Do they know, for instance, the Copernican system, or 
the circulation of the blood ? 

Ale. One would think you judged of our sect by your country 
neighbours : there is nobody in town but knows all those points. 

Euph. You believe then antipodes, mountains in the moon, and 
the motion of the earth ? 

Ale. We do. 

Euph. Suppose, five or six centuries ago, a man had maintained 
these notions among the beaux esprit* of an English court ; how do 
you think they would have been received ? 

7C See Shaftesbury's Characteristics, vol. of Wit and Humour. Cf. Leland's View, 
III. p. 291. Letter V,, and Warburton's Divine Legation 

77 See Shaftesbury's Essay on tbe Freedom Dedication, 

134 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

Ale. With great ridicule. 

Euph. And now it would be ridiculous to ridicule them ? 

Ale. It would. 

Euph. But truth was the same then and now ? 

Ale. It was. 

Euph. It should seem, therefore, that ridicule is no such sove- 
reign touchstone and test of truth as you gentlemen imagine. 

Ale. One thing we know: our raillery and sarcasms gall the 
black tribe, and that is our comfort. 

Cri. There is another, thing it may be worth your while to 
know : that men in a laughing fit may applaud a ridicule which 
shall appear contemptible when they come to themselves. Witness 
the ridicule of Socrates by the comic poet, the humour and recep- 
tion it met with no more proving that than the same will yours 
to be just, when calmly considered by men of sense. 

Ale. After all, thus much is certain, our ingenious men make 
converts by deriding the principles of religion. And, take my 
word, it is the most successful and pleasing method of conviction. 
These authors laugh men out of their religion, as Horace did out 
of their vices : AJmissi circum praecordia ludant. But a bigot cannot 
relish or find out their wit. 

16. Cri. Wit without wisdom, if there be such a thing, is hardly 
worth finding. And as for the wisdom of these men, it is of a kind 
so peculiar one may well suspect it. Cicero was a man of sense, 
and no bigot; nevertheless, he makes Scipio own himself much 
more vigilant and vigorous in the race of virtue, from supposing 
heaven the prize 7*. And he introduced! Cato declaring he would 
never have undergone those virtuous toils for the service of the 
public, if he had thought his being was to end with this Iife7o. 

Ale. I acknowledge Cato, Scipio, and Cicero were very well for 
their times ; but you must pardon me if I do not think they arrived 
at the high, consummate virtue of our modern free-thinkers. 

Euph. It should seem then that virtue flourisheth more than ever 
among us ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. And this abundant virtue is owing to the method taken 
by your profound writers to recommend it. 

78 [Somn. Scipionis.] AUTHOR. 79 [De Senectute.] AUTHOR. 

The Third Dialogue. 135 

Ale. This I grant. 

Euph. But you have acknowledged that the enthusiastic lovers 
of virtue are not the many of your sect, but only a few select 

To which Alciphron making no answer, Crito addressed 
himself to Euphranor : To make, said he, a true estimate of the 
worth and growth of modern virtue, you are not to count the 
virtuous men, but rather to consider the quality of their virtue. 
Now, you must know the virtue of these refined theorists is some- 
thing so pure and genuine that a very little goes far, and is in 
truth invaluable. To which that reasonable interested virtue of 
the old English or Spartan kind can bear no proportion. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, are there not diseases of the soul as 
well as of the body ? 

Ale. Without doubt. 

Euph. And are not those diseases vicious habits ? 

Ale. They are. 

Euph. And, as bodily distempers are cured by physic, those of 
the mind are cured by philosophy : are they not ? 

Ale. I acknowledge it. 

Euph. It seems, therefore, that philosophy is a medicine for the 
soul of man. 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. How shall we be able to judge of medicines, or know 
which to prefer ? Is it not from the effects wrought by them ? 

Ale. Doubtless. 

Euph. Where an epidemical distemper rages, suppose a new 
physician should condemn the known established practice, and 
recommend another method of cure, would you not, in proportion 
as the bills of mortality increased, be tempted to suspect this new 
method, notwithstanding all the plausible discourse of its abettors? 

Ale. This serves only to amuse and lead us from the question. 

Crt. It puts me in mind of my friend Lamprocles, who needed 
but one argument against infidels. I observed, said he, that as 
infidelity grew, there grew corruption of every kind, and new vices. 
This simple observation on matter of fact was sufficient to make 
him, notwithstanding the remonstrance of several ingenious men, 
imbue and season the minds of his children betimes with the 
principles of religion. The new theories, which our acute moderns 

136 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

have endeavoured to substitute in place of religion, have had their 
full course in the present age, and produced their effect on the 
minds and manners of men. That men are men, is a sure maxim: 
but it is as sure that Englishmen are not the same men they were; 
whether better or worse, more or less virtuous, I need not say. 
Every one may see and judge. Though, indeed, after Aristides 
had been banished, and Socrates put to death at Athens, a man, 
without being a conjuror, might guess what the Beauty of Virtue 
could do in England. But there is now neither room nor occasion 
for guessing. We have our own experience to open our eyes; 
which yet, if we continue to keep shut till the remains of religious 
education are quite worn off from the minds of men, it is to be 
feared we shall then open them wide, not to avoid, but to behold 
and lament our ruin. 

Ale. Be the consequences what they will, I can never bring 
myself to be of a mind with those who measure truth by con- 
venience. Truth is the only divinity that I adore. Wherever 
truth leads, I shall follow. 

Euph. You have then a passion for truth ? 

Ale. Undoubtedly. 

Eufh. For all truths ? 

Ale. For all. 

Euph. To know, or to publish them ? 

Ale. Both. 

Euph. What! would you undeceive a child that was taking 
physic? Would you officiously set an enemy right that was 
making a wrong attack ? Would you help an enraged man to his 
sword ? 

Ale. In such cases, common sense directs one how to behave. 

Euph. Common sense, it seems then, must be consulted whether 
a truth be salutary or hurtful, fit to be declared or concealed. 

Ale. How ? you would have me conceal and stifle the truth, and 
keep it to myself. Is this what you aim at ? 

Euph. I only make a plain inference from what you grant. As 
for myself, I do not believe your opinions true. And, although 
you do, you should not therefore, if you would appear consistent 
with yourself, think it necessary or wise to publish hurtful truths. 
What service can it do mankind to lessen the motives to virtue, 
or what damage to increase them ? 

The Third Dialogue. 137 

Ale. None in the world. But, I must needs say I cannot recon- 
cile the received notions of a God and Providence to my under- 
standing, and my nature abhors the baseness of conniving at a 

Euph. Shall we therefore appeal to truth, and examine the rea- 
sons by which you are withheld from believing these points ? 

Ale . With all my heart ; but enough for the present. We will 
make this the subject of our next conference. 


I. Prejudices concerning a Deity. 2. Rules laid down by Alciphron to be observed in 
proving a God. 3. What sort of proof he expects. 4. Whence we collect the being of 
other thinking individuals. 5. The same method a fortiori proves the being of God. 
6. Alciphron's second thoughts on this point. 7. God speaks to men. 8. How distance 
is perceived by sight. 9. The proper objects of sight at no distance. 10. Lights, 
shades, and colours, variously combined, form a language, n. The signification of this 
language learned by experience. 12. God explaineth Himself to the eyes of men by the 
arbitrary use of sensible signs. 13. The prejudice and twofold aspect of a minute 
philosoper. 14. God present to mankind, informs, admonishes, and directs them in a 
sensible manner. 15. Admirable nature and use of this Visual Language. 16. Minute 
philosophers content to admit a God in certain senses. 17. Opinion of some who hold, 
that knowledge and wisdom are not properly in God. 18. Dangerous tendency of this 
notion. 19. Its original. 20. The sense of schoolmen upon it. 21. Scholastic use of the 
terms * analogy' and ' analogical ' explained : analogical perfections of God misunderstood. 
22. God intelligent, wise, and good, in the proper sense of the words. 23. Objection 
from moral evil considered. 24. Men argue from their own defects against a Deity. 
25. Religious worship reasonable and expedient. 

j. EARLY the next morning, as I looked out of my window, 
I saw Alciphron walking in the garden with all the signs of a man 
in deep thought. Upon which I went down to him. 

Alciphron, said I, this early and profound meditation puts me 
in no small fright, How so? Because I should be sorry to be 
convinced there was no God. The thought of anarchy in 

80 In this Dialogue, the transition is made Essay towards a New Theory of Vision, and 

from Ethics to Religion, which is regarded particularly the Vindication and Explanation 

as the motive force in morals. We have of that Theory, published the year after the 

here Berkeley's vindication of Religion ; on appearance of Alcipbron, should be com- 

the foundation of his own metaphysical pared with these sections. Those which 

philosophy, which substitutes supreme Mind follow (sect. 16 24) relate to the sort of 

for the inscrutable substances and causes of knowledge we have of Divine Being, thus 

Materialism thus discerning in the universal revealed in the Language of Nature the 

prevalence of Natural Law throughout the meaning, in short, in which the word God 

sensible world the perpetual Providence of is to be taken when we say that He exists, 

God, and in physical Science a portion of and is wise, powerful, intelligent, and good. 

Divine Revelation. The Fourth Dialogue is thus a refutation 

In sect. 8 15, Euphranor and Crito rest of speculative and practical Atheism, and a 

faith in the existence of God on the fact of blending of religion with modern Science, 

Visual Language, or Sense-symbolism ; which as the preceding one blends practical morality 

is the ground of belief in the existence of our and religion with ancient Art and the idea 

fellow-men when we hear them speak. The of beauty. 

The Fourth Dialogue. 139 

nature is to me more shocking than in civil life : inasmuch as 
natural concerns are more important than civil^ and the basis 
of all others. 

I grant, replied Alciphron, that some inconvenience may possibly 
follow from disproving a God : but as to what you say of fright and 
shocking, all that is nothing but mere prejudice. Men frame an idea 
or chimera in their own minds, and then fall down and worship it. 
Notions govern mankind : but of all notions that of God's govern- 
ing the world hath taken the deepest root and spread the farthest : 
it is therefore in philosophy an heroical achievement to dispossess 
this imaginary monarch of his government, and banish all those 
fears and spectres which the light of reason alone can dispel : 

Non radii solis, non lucida tela diei 
Discutiunt, sed naturae species ratioque 81 . 

My part, said I, shall be to stand by, as I have hitherto done, 
and take notes of all that passeth during this memorable event ; 
while a minute philosopher, not six feet high, attempts to dethrone 
the monarch of the universe. 

Alas ! replied Alciphron, arguments are not to be measured by 
feet and inches. One man may see more than a million ; and a 
short argument, managed by a free-thinker, may be sufficient to 
overthrow the most gigantic chimera. 

As we were engaged in this discourse, Crito and Euphranor 
joined us. 

I find you have been beforehand with us to-day, said Crito to 
Alciphron, and taken the advantage of solitude and early hours, 
while Euphranor and I were asleep in our beds. We may, there- 
fore, expect to see atheism placed in the best light, and supported 
by the strongest arguments. 

2. Ale. The being of a God is a subject upon which there has been 
a world of commonplace, which it is needless to repeat. Give me 
leave therefore to lay down certain rules and limitations, in order 
to shorten our present conference. For, as the end of debating is 
to persuade, all those things which are foreign to this end should 
be left out of our debate. 

81 [Lucretius.] AUTHOR. 

140 . Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

First then, let me tell you I am not to be persuaded by 
metaphysical arguments; such, for instance, as are drawn from 
the idea of an all-perfect being, or the absurdity of an infinite 
progression of causes 82 . This sort of arguments I have always 
found dry and jejune; and, as they are not suited to my way 
of thinking, they may perhaps puzzle, but never will convince 
me. Secondly, I am not to be persuaded by the authority either 
of past or present ages, of mankind in general, or of particular 
wise men, all which passeth for little or nothing with a man of 
sound argument and free thought. Thirdly, all proofs drawn from 
utility or convenience are foreign to the purpose. They may 
prove indeed the usefulness of the notion, but not the existence 
of the thing. Whatever legislators or statesmen may think, truth 
and convenience are very different things to the rigorous eye of 
a philosopher. 

And now, that 1 may not seem partial, I will limit myself 
also not to object, in the first place, from anything that may 
seem irregular or unaccountable in the works of nature, against 
a cause of infinite power and wisdom ; because I already know 
the answer you will make, to wit, that no one can judge of the 
symmetry and use of the parts of an infinite machine, which are 
all relative to each other, and to the whole, without being able to 
comprehend the entire machine, or the whole universe. And, in 
the second place, I shall engage myself not to object against the 
justice and providence of a supreme Being from the evil that befals 
good men, and the prosperity which is often the portion of wicked 
men in this life; because I know that, instead of admitting this 
to be an objection against a Deity, you would make it an argument 
for a future state, in which there shall be such a retribution of 
rewards and punishments as may vindicate the Divine attributes, 
and set all things right in the end. Now, these answers, though 
they should be admitted for good ones, are in truth no proofs 
of the being of God, but only solutions of certain difficulties 
which might be objected, supposing it already proved by proper 
arguments. Thus much I thought fit to premise, in order to save 
time and trouble both to you and myself. 

Crt. I think that as the proper end of our conference ought to 
be supposed the discovery and defence of truth, so truth may be 

82 As in the Meditations of Des Cartes, or in Clarke's Demonstration. 

The Fourth Dialogue. 141 

justified, not only by persuading its adversaries, but, where that 
cannot be done, by shewing them to be unreasonable. Arguments, 
therefore, which carry light have their effect, even against an 
opponent who shuts his eyes, because they shew him to be 
obstinate and prejudiced. Besides, this distinction between argu- 
ments that puzzle and that convince, is least of all observed by 
minute philosophers, and need not therefore be observed by others 
in their favour. But, perhaps, Euphranor may be willing to en- 
counter you on your own terms, in which case I have nothing 
further to say. 

3. Eufh. Alciphron acts like a skilful general, who is bent upon 
gaining the advantage of the ground, and alluring the enemy out 
of their trenches. We who believe a God are entrenched within 
tradition, custom, authority, and law. And, nevertheless, instead 
of attempting to force us, he proposes that he should voluntarily 
abandon these intrenchments, and make the attack ; when we may 
act on the defensive with much security and ease, leaving him the 
trouble to dispossess us of what we need not resign. Those 
reasons (continued he, addressing himself to Alciphron) which you 
have mustered up in this morning's meditation, if they do not 
weaken, must establish our belief of a God; for the utmost is to 
be expected from so great a master in his profession, when he sets 
his strength to a point. 

Ale. I hold the confused notion of a Deity, or some invisible 
power, to be of all prejudices the most unconquerable. When half- 
a-dozen ingenious men are got together over a glass of wine, by 
a cheerful fire, in a room well lighted, we banish with ease all the 
spectres of fancy and education, and are very clear in our decisions. 
But, as I was taking a solitary walk before it was broad daylight in 
yonder grove, methought the point was not quite so clear ; nor 
could I readily recollect the force of those arguments which used 
to appear so conclusive at other times. I had I know not what 
awe upon my mind, and seemed haunted by a sort of panic, which 
I cannot otherwise account for than by supposing it the effect of 
prejudice : for, you must know that I, like the rest of the world, 
was once upon a time catechised and tutored into the belief of 
a God or Spirit. There is no surer mark of prejudice than the 
believing a thing without reason. What necessity then can there 

142 Alciphron^ or the Minute Philosopher: 

be that I should set myself the difficult task of proving a negative, 
when it is sufficient to observe that there is no proof of the affirma- 
tive, and that the admitting it without proof is unreasonable ? 
Prove therefore your opinion ; or, if you cannot, you may indeed 
remain in possession of it, but you will only be possessed of 
a prejudice. 

Euph. O Alciphron, to content you we must prove, it seems, and 
we must prove upon your own terms. But, in the first place, let 
us see what sort of proof you expect. 

Ale. Perhaps I may not expect it, but I will tell you what sprt 
of proof I would have : and that is, in short such proof as every 
man of sense requires of a matter of fact, or the existence of any 
other particular thing. For instance, should a man ask why I 
believe there is a king of Great Britain ? I might answer Because 
I had seen him. Or a king of Spain ? Because I had seen those 
who saw him. But as for this King of kings, I neither saw Him 
myself, or any one else that ever did see Him. Surely, if there 
be such a thing as God, it is very strange that He should leave 
Himself without a witness ; that men should still dispute His 
being; and that there should be no one evident, sensible, plain 
proof of it, without recourse to philosophy or metaphysics. A 
matter of fact is not to be proved by notions, but by facts. This 
is clear and full to the point. You see what I would be at. Upon 
these principles I defy superstition. 

Euph. You believe then as far as you can see ? 

Ale . That is my rule of faith. 

Euph. How! will you not believe the existence of things which 
you hear, unless you also see them ? 

Ale. I will not say so neither. When I insisted on seeing, 
I would be understood to mean perceiving in general. Out- 
ward objects make very different impressions upon the animal 
spirits, all which are comprised under the common name of 
sense. And whatever we can perceive by any sense we may be 
sure of. 

4. Euph. What ! do you believe then that there are such things 
as animal spirits ? 
Ale. Doubtless. 
Euph. By what sense do you perceive them ? 

The Fourth Dialogue. 143 

Ale. I do not perceive them immediately by any of my senses. 
I am nevertheless persuaded of their existence, because I can 
collect it from their effects and operations. They are the mes- 
sengers which, running to and fro in the nerves, preserve a com- 
munication between the soul and outward objects. 

Eufh. You admit then the being of a soul ? 

Ale. Provided I do not admit an immaterial substance, I see no 
inconvenience in admitting there may be such a thing as a soul. 
And this may be no more than a thin fine texture of subtile parts 
or spirits residing in the brain. 

Euph. I do not ask about its nature. P only ask whether you 
admit that there is a principle of thought and action, and whether 
it be perceivable by sense. 

Ale. I grant that there is such a principle, and that it is not the 
object of sense itself, but inferred from appearances which are per- 
ceived by sense. 

Eufh. If I understand you rightly, from animal functions and 
motions you infer the existence of animal spirits, and from 
reasonable acts you infer the existence of a reasonable soul. Is it 
not so ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. It should seem, therefore, that the being of things imper- 
ceptible to sense may be collected from effects and signs, or 
sensible tokens. 

Ale. It may. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, is not the soul that which makes the 
principal distinction between a real person and a shadow, a living 
man and a carcass ? 

Ale. I grant it is. 

Euph. I cannot, therefore, know that you, for instance, are a dis- 
tinct thinking individual, or a living real man, by surer or other 
signs than those from which it can be inferred that you have 
a soul ? 

Ale. You cannot. 

Euph. Pray tell me, are not all acts immediately and properly 
perceived by sense reducible to motion 83 ? 

Ale. They are. 

Euph. From motions, therefore, you infer a mover or cause j and 

83 Cf. De Molu, passim. 

144 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

from reasonable motions (or such as appear calculated for a reason- 
able end) a rational cause, soul or spirit ? 
Ale. Even so. 

5. Euph. The soul of man actuates but a small body, an 
insignificant particle, in respect of the great masses of nature, the 
elements, and heavenly bodies, and system of the world. And the 
wisdom that appears in those motions which are the effect of 
human reason is incomparably less than that which discovers 
itself in the structure and use of organized natural bodies, animal 
or vegetable. A mart with his hand can make no machine so 
admirable as the hand itself j nor can any of those motions by 
which we trace out human reason approach the skill and con- 
trivance of those wonderful motions of the heart, and brain, and 
other vital parts, which do not depend on the will of man. 
Ale. All this is true. 

Euph. Doth it not follow, then, that from natural nations, in- 
dependent of man's will, may be inferred both power and wisdom 
incomparably greater than that of the human soul ? 
Ale. It should seem so. 

Euph. Further, is there not in natural productions and effects a 
visible unity of counsel and design ? Are not the rules fixed and 
immoveable ? Do not the same laws of motion obtain through- 
out ? The same in China and here, the same two thousand years 
ago and at this day ? 

Ale. All this I do not deny. 

Euph. Is there not also a connection or relation between animals 
and vegetables, between both and the elements, between the 
elements and heavenly bodies ; so that, from their mutual respects, 
influences, subordinations, and uses, they may be collected to be 
parts of one whole, conspiring to one and the same end, and 
fulfilling the same design ? 

Ale. Supposing all this to be true. 

Euph. Will it not then follow that this vastly great, or infinite 
power and wisdom must be supposed in one and the same Agent, 
Spirit, or Mind ; and that we have at least as clear, full, and im- 
mediate certainty of the being of this infinitely wise and powerful 
Spirit, as of any one human soul whatsoever besides our own ? 
Ale. Let me consider : I suspect we proceed too hastily. What ! 

The Fourth Dialogue. 145 

Do you pretend you can have the same assurance of the being of a 
God that you can have of mine, whom you actually see stand 
before you and talk to you ? 

Euph. The very same, if not greater 84 . . 

Ale. How do you make this appear ? 

Euph. By the person Alciphron is meant an individual thinking 
thing, and not the hair, skin, or visible surface, or any part of the 
outward form, colour, or shape, of Alciphron. 

Ale. This I grant. 

Euph. And, in granting this, you grant that, in a strict sense, 
I do not see Alciphron, i. e. that individual thinking thing, but 
only such visible signs and tokens as suggest and infer the being 
of that invisible thinking principle or soul. Even so, in the self- 
same manner, it seems to me that, though I cannot with eyes of 
flesh behold the invisible God, yet I do in the strictest sense 
behold and perceive by all my senses such signs and tokens, such 
effects and operations, as suggest, indicate, and demonstrate an 
invisible God as certainly, and with the same evidence, at least, 
as any other signs, perceived by sense, do suggest to me the 
existence of your soul, spirit, or thinking principle j which I am 
convinced of only by a few signs or effects, and the motions of one 
small organised body : whereas I do at all times and in all places 
perceive sensible signs which evince the being of God. The 
point, therefore^ doubted or denied by you at the beginning, now 
seems manifestly to follow from the premises. Throughout this 
whole inquiry, have we not considered every step with care, and 
made not the least advance without clear evidence ? You and I 
examined and assented singly to each foregoing proposition : 
what shall we do then with the conclusion ? For my part, if you 
do not help me out, I find myself under an absolute necessity of 
admitting it for true. You must therefore be content hence- 
forward to bear the blame, if I live and die in the belief of a God. 

6. Ale. It must be confessed, I .do not readily find an answer. 
There seems to be some foundation for what you say. But, on the 
other hand, if the point was so clear as you pretend, I cannot con- 
ceive how so many sagacious men of our sect should be so much 
in the dark as not to know or believe one syllable of it. 

84 Cf. Principles of Human Knowledge, sect. 147. 

146 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Euph. O Alciphron, it is not our present business to account for 
the oversights, or vindicate the honour, of those great men the 
free-thinkers, when their very existence is in danger of b^ing 
called in question. 

Ale. How so ? 

Eufh. Be pleased to recollect the concessions you have made, 
and then shew me, if the arguments for a Deity be not conclusive, 
by what better arguments you can prove the existence of that 
thinking thing which in strictness constitutes the free-thinker. 

As soon as Euphranor had uttered these words, Alciphron 
stopped short, and stood in a posture of meditation, while the rest 
of us continued our walk and took two or three turns, after which 
he joined us again with a smiling countenance, like one who had 
made some discovery. I have found, said he, what may clear up 
the point in dispute, and give Euphranor entire satisfaction ; 
I would say an argument which will prove the existence of a free- 
thinker, the like whereof cannot be applied to prove the existence 
of God. You must know then that your notion of our perceiving 
the existence of God, as certainly and immediately as we do that 
of a human person, I could by no means digest, though I must own 
it pulled me, till I had considered the matter. At first methought 
a particular structure, shape, or motion was a most certain proof 
of a thinking reasonable soul. But a little attention satisfied me 
that these things have no necessary connection with reason, know- 
ledge, and wisdom ; and that, allowing them to be certain proofs 
of a living soul, they cannot be so of a thinking and reasonable 
one. Upon second thoughts, therefore, and a minute examination 
of this point, I have found that nothing so much convinces me of 
the existence of another person as his speaking to me. It is my 
hearing you talk that, in strict and philosophical truth, is to me 
the best argument for your being. And this is a peculiar argu- 
ment, inapplicable to your purpose ; for, you will not, I suppose, 
pretend that God speaks to man in the same clear and sensible 
manner as one man doth to another ? 

7. Euph. How ! is then the impression of sound so much more 
evident than that of other senses ? Or, if it be, is the voice of 
man louder than that of thunder ? 

Ale. Alas ! you mistake the point. What I mean is not the 

The Fourth Dialogue. 147 

sound of speech merely as such, but the arbitrary use of sensible 
signs, which have no similitude or necessary ** connection with the 
things signified ; so as by the apposite management of them to 
suggest and exhibit to my mind an endless variety of things, 
differing in nature, time, and place ; thereby informing me, enter- 
taining me, and directing me how to act, not only with regard to 
things near and present, but also with regard to things distant and 
future. No matter whether these signs are pronounced or written ; 
whether they enter by the eye or ear : they have the same use, and 
are equally proofs of an intelligent, thinking, designing cause. 

Euph. But what if it should appear that God really speaks to 
man ; would this content you ? 

Ale. I am for admitting no inward speech, no holy instincts, or 
suggestions of light or spirit. All that, you must know, passeth 
with men of sense for nothing. If you do not make it plain to me 
that God speaks to men by outward sensible signs, of such sort 
and in such manner as I have defined, you do nothing. 

Euph. But if it shall appear plainly that God speaks to men by 
the intervention and use of arbitrary, outward, sensible signs, 
having no resemblance or necessary connection with the things 
they stand for and suggest : if it shall appear that, by innumerable 
combinations of these signs, an endless variety of things is dis- 
covered and made known to us ; and that we are thereby instructed 
or informed in their different natures; that we are taught and 
admonished what to shun, and what to pursue ; and are directed 
how to regulate our motions, and how to act with respect to things 
distant from us, as well in time as place, will this content you ? 

Ale. It is the very thing I would have you make out; for 
therein consists the force, and use, and nature of language. 

8. Euph. Look, Alciphron, do you not see the castle upon 
yonder hill ? 
Ale. I do. 
Euph. Is it not at a great distance from you ? 

86 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. I 7, 23, among the phenomena of nature is urged, 

28, 51, 58 66, 147 ; Principles of Human and the analogy between these relations, and 

Knowledge, sect. 30, 31,65, 66, &c.; Theory those of spoken and written signs to their 

of Vision Vindicated, sect. 30,39,40,42 45, meanings, in an artificial language, is illus- 

8cc.;Siris, sect, 252 255,&c. in all which trated. An a priori philosophy of the 

the arbitrariness (relatively to us) of the changes in nature, accordingly, transcends 

actual relations of co-existence and succession human intelligence. 

148 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, is not distance a line turned end- 
wise to the eye 86 ? 

Ale. Doubtless. 

Euph. And can a line, in that situation, project more than one 
single point on the bottom of the eye ? 

Ale. It cannot. 

Euph. Therefore the appearance of a long and of a short distance 
is of the same magnitude, or rather of no magnitude at all being 
in all cases one single point. 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. Should it not follow from hence that distance is not 
immediately perceived by the eye ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. Must it not then be perceived by the mediation of some 
other thing ? 

Ale. It must. 

Euph. To discover what this is, let us examine what alteration 
there may be in the appearance of the same object, placed at 
different distances from the eye. Now, I find by experience that 
when an object is removed still farther and farther off in a direct 
line from the eye, its visible appearance still grows lesser and 
fainter ; and this change of appearance, being proportional and 
universal, seems to me to be that by which we apprehend the 
various degrees of distance. 

Ale. I have nothing to object to this. 

Euph. But littleness or faintness, in their own nature, seem to 
have no necessary connection with greater length of distance ? 

Ale. I admit this to be true. 

Euph. Will it not follow then that they could never suggest it 
but from experience ? 

Ale. It will. 

Euph. That is to say we perceive distance, not immediately, 
but by mediation of a sign, which hath no likeness to it, or neces- 
sary connection with it, but only suggests it from repeated expe- 
rience, as words do things. 

86 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. 2 51, tions contain a popular exposition of the 
with this and with what follows, regarding New Theory of Vision. 
Distance. This and the four following sec- 

The Fourth Dialogue. 149 

Ale. Hold, Euphranor : now I think of it, the writers in optics 
tell us of an angle made by the two optic axes, where they meet in 
the visible point or object; which angle, the obtuser it is the 
nearer it shews the object to be, and by how much the acuter, by 
so much the farther off j and this from a necessary demonstrable 

Euph. The mind then finds out the distance of things by 
geometry ? 

Ale, It doth. 

Euph, Should it not follow, therefore, that nobody could see but 
those who had learned geometry, and knew something of lines and 
angles ? 

Ale. There is a sort of natural geometry which is got without 

Euph. Pray inform me, Alciphron, in order to frame a proof of 
any kind, or deduce one point from another, is it not necessary 
that I perceive the connection of the terms in the premises, and the 
connection of the premises with the conclusion ; and, in general, 
to know one thing by means of another, must I not first know that 
other thing ? When I perceive your meaning by your words, must 
I not first perceive the words themselves ? and must I not know 
the premises before I infer the conclusion ? 

Ale. All this is true. 

Euph. Whoever, therefore, collects a nearer distance from a wider 
angle, or a farther distance from an acuter angle, must first 
perceive the angles themselves. And he who doth not perceive 
those angles can infer nothing from them. Is it so or not ? 

Ale. It is as you say. 

Euph, Ask now the first man you meet whether he perceives or 
knows anything of those optic angles ? or whether he ever thinks 
about them, or makes any inferences from them, either by natural or 
artificial geometry ? What answer do you think he would make ? 

Ah. To speak the truth, I believe his answer would be, that he 
knew nothing of these matters. 

Euph. It cannot therefore be that men judge of distance by 
angles : nor, consequently, can there be any force in the argument 
you drew from thence, to prove that distance is perceived by 
means of something which hath a necessary connection with it. 

Ale. I agree with you. 

150 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

9. Euph. To me it seems that a man may know whether he 
perceives a thing or no; and, if he perceives it, whether it be 
immediately or mediately : and, if mediately, whether by means of 
something like or unlike, necessarily or arbitrarily connected 
with it. 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. And is it not certain that distance is perceived only by 
experience, if it be neither perceived immediately by itself, nor by 
means of any image, nor of any lines and angles which are like 
it, or have a necessary connection with it ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Doth it not seem to follow, from what hath been said 
and allowed by you, that before all experience a man would not 
imagine the things he saw were at any distance from him ? 

Ale. How ! let me see. 

Euph. The littleness or faintness of appearance, or any other 
idea or sensation not necessarily connected with or resembling 
distance, can no more suggest different degrees of distance, or any 
distance at all, to the mind which hath not experienced a con- 
nection of the things signifying and signified, than words can 
suggest notions before a man hath learned the language. 

Ale. I allow this to be true. 

Euph. Will it not thence follow that a man born blind, and 
made to see, would, upon first receiving his sight, take the things 
he saw not to be at any distance from him, but in his eye, or 
rather in his mind 8 '? 

Ale. I must own it seems so. And yet, on the other hand, I can 
hardly persuade myself that, if I were in such a state, I should 
think those objects which 1 now see at so great distance to be at 
no distance at all. 

Euph. It seems, then, that you now think the objects of sight are 
at a distance from you ? 

Ale. Doubtless I do. Can any one question but yonder castle 
is at a great distance ? 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, can you discern the doors, windows, 
and battlements of that same castle ? 

Ale. I cannot. At this distance it seems only a small round 

87 Cf. New Tbeory of Vision, sect, 41 ; Vindication, sect. 71. 

The Fourth Dialogue. 151 

Euph. But I, who have been at it, know that it is no small 
round tower, but a large square building with battlements and 
turrets, which it seems you do not see. 

Ale. What will you infer from thence ? 

'Euph. \ would infer that the very object which you strictly and 
properly perceive by sight is not that thing which is several miles 

Ale. Why so ? 

Euph. Because a little round object is one thing, and a great 
square object is another. Is it not ? 

Ale. I cannot deny it. 

Euph. Tell me, is not the visible appearance alone the proper 
object of sight ? 

Ale. It is. 

What think you now (said Euphranor, pointing towards the 
heavens) of the visible appearance of yonder planet ? Is it not a 
round luminous flat, no bigger than a sixpence ? 

Ale. What then ? 

Euph. Tell me then, what you think of the planet itself. Do you 
not conceive it to be a vast opaque globe, with several unequal 
risings and valleys ? 

Ale. I do. 

Euph. How can you therefore conclude that the proper object of 
your sight exists at a distance ? 

Ale. I confess I know not. 

Euph. For your further conviction, do but consider that crimson 
cloud. Think you that, if you were in the very place where it is, 
you would perceive anything like what you now see ? 

Ale. By no means. I should perceive only a dark mist. 

Euph. Is it not plain, therefore, that neither the castle, the 
planet, nor the cloud, which you see here, are those real ones 
which you suppose exist at a distance ? 

10. Ale. What am I to think then? Do we see anything at all, 
or .is it altogether fancy and illusion? 

Euph. Upon the whole, it seems the proper objects of sight are 
light and colours 88 , with their several shades and degrees ; all which, 

M Cf. New Tbeory of Vision, sect. 43. 

152 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

being infinitely diversified and combined, do form a language 
wonderfully adapted to suggest and exhibit to us the distances, 
figures, situations, dimensions, and various qualities of tangible 
objects not by similitude, nor yet by inference of necessary 
connection, but by the arbitrary imposition of Providence, just as 
words suggest the things signified by them. 

Ale. How ! Do we not, strictly speaking, perceive by sight such 
things as trees, houses, men, rivers, and the like ? 

Eup. We do, indeed, perceive or apprehend those things by the 
faculty of sight. But, .will it follow from thence that they are the 
proper and immediate objects of sight, any more than that all those 
things are the proper and immediate objects of hearing which are 
signified by the help of words or sounds ? 

Ale. You would tiave us think, then, that light, shades, and 
colours, variously combined, answer to the several articulations of 
sound in language; and that, by means thereof, all sorts of objects 
are suggested to the mind through the eye, in the same manner as 
they are suggested by words or sounds through the ear : that is, 
neither from necessary deduction to the judgment, nor from simili- 
tude to the fancy, but purely and solely from experience, custom, 
and habit. 

Euph. I would not have you think anything more than the 
nature of things obligeth you to think, nor submit in the least to 
my judgment, but only to the force of truth : which is an imposition 
that I suppose the freest thinkers will not pretend to be exempt 

Ale. You have led me, it seems, step by step, till I am got I 
know not where. But I shall try to get out again, if not by the 
way I came, yet by some other of my own finding. 

Here Alciphron, having made a short pause, proceeded as 

ii. Answer me, Euphranor, should it not follow from these 
principles that a man born blind, and made to see, would, at first 
sight, not only not perceive their distance, but also not so much as 
know the very things themselves which he saw, for instance, men 
or trees ? which surely to suppose must be absurd. 

Euph. I grant, in consequence of those principles, which both 
you and I have admitted, that such a one would never think of 

The Fourth Dialogue. 153 

men, trees, or any other objects that he had been accustomed to 
perceive by touch, upon having his mind filled with new sensations 
of light and colours, whose various combinations he doth not yet 
understand, or know the meaning of; no more than a Chinese, 
upon first hearing the words man and tree would think of the things 
signified by them. In both cases, there must be time and ex- 
perience, by repeated acts, to acquire a habit of knowing the con- 
nection between the signs and things signified ; that is to say, of 
understanding the language, whether of the eyes or of the ears. 
And I conceive no absurdity in all this. 

Ale. I see, therefore, in strict philosophical truth, that rock only 
in the same sense that I may be said to hear it, when the word 
rock is pronounced. 

Euph. In the very same. 

Ah. How comes it to pass then that every one shall say he 
sees, for instance, a rock or a house, when those things are before 
his eyes; but nobody will say he hears a rock or a house, but only 
the words or sounds themselves by which those things are said to 
be signified or suggested but not heard 89 ? Besides, if vision be 
only a language speaking to the eyes, it may be asked, when did men 
learn this language ? To acquire the knowledge of so many signs 
as go to the making up a language is a work of some difficulty. 
But, will any man say he hath spent time, or been at pains, to 
learn this Language of Vision ? 

Euph. No wonder; we cannot assign a time beyond our remotest 
memory. If we have been all practising this language, ever since 
our first entrance into the world : if the Author of Nature constantly 
speaks to the eyes of all mankind, even in their earliest infancy, 
whenever the eyes are open in the light, whether alone or in com- 
pany : it doth not seem to me at all strange that men should not 
be aware they had ever learned a language begun so early, and 
practised so constantly, as this of Vision. And, if we also consider 
that it is the same throughout the whole world, and not, like other 
languages, differing in different places, it will not seem unaccount- 
able that men should mistake the connection between the proper 
objects of sight and the things signified by them to be founded in 
necessary relation or likeness ; or, that they should even take them 

89 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. 46, 47. 

154 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

for the same things. Hence it seems easy to conceive why men 
who do not think should confound in this language of vision the 
signs with the things signified, otherwise than they are wont to 
do in the various particular languages formed by the several 
nations of men 90 . 

13. It may be also worth while to observe that signs, being 
little considered in themselves, or for their own sake, but only in 
their relative capacity, and for the sake of those things whereof 
they are signs, it comes to pass that the mind overlooks them, so 
as to carry its attention immediately on to the things signified. 
Thus, for example, in reading we run over the characters with the 
slightest regard, and pass on to the meaning. Hence it is frequent 
for men to say, they see words, and notions, and things in reading 
of a book; whereas in strictness they see only the characters which 
suggest words, notions, and things. And, by parity of reason, may 
we not suppose that men, not resting in, but overlooking the 
immediate and proper objects of sight, as in their own nature of 
small moment, carry their attention onward to the very things sig- 
nified, and talk as if they saw the secondary objects ? which, in truth 
and strictness, are not seen, but only suggested and apprehended 
by means of the proper objects of sight, which alone are seen. 

Ale. To speak my mind freely, this dissertation grows tedious, 
and runs into points too dry and minute for a gentleman's 

I thought, said Crito, we had been told that minute philosophers 
loved to consider things closely and minutely. 

Ale. That is true, but in so polite an age who would be a mere 
philosopher? There is a certain scholastic accuracy which ill 
suits the freedom and ease of a well-bred man. But, to cut short 
this chicane, I propound it fairly to your own conscience, whether 
you really think that God Himself speaks every day and in every 
place to the eyes of all men. 

Euph. That is really and in truth my opinion j and it should be 
yours too, if you are consistent with yourself, and abide by your 
own definition of language. Since you cannot deny that the 
great Mover and Author of nature constantly explaineth Himself to 

00 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. 144. 

The Fourth Dialogue. 155 

the eyes of men by the sensible intervention of arbitrary signs, 
which have no similitude or connection with the things signified ; 
so as, by compounding and disposing them, to suggest and exhibit 
an endless variety of objects, differing in nature, time, and place ; 
thereby informing and directing men how to act with respect to 
things distant and future, as well as near and present. In conse- 
quence, I say, of your own sentiments and concessions, you have 
as much reason to think the Universal Agent or God speaks to 
your eyes, as you can have for thinking any particular person 
speaks to your ears. 

Ale. \ cannot help thinking that some fallacy runs throughout 
this whole ratiocination, though perhaps I may not readily point 
it out. Hold! let me see. In language the signs are arbitrary, 
are they not ? 

Eufh. They are. 

Ale. And, consequently, they do not always suggest real matters 
of fact. Whereas this Natural Language, as you call it, or these 
visible signs, do always suggest things in the same uniform way, 
and have the same constant regular connection with matters of 
fact : whence it should seem the connection was neccessary and, 
therefore, according to the definition premised, it can be no 
language. How do you solve this objection ? 

Eufh. You may solve it yourself by the help of a picture 
or looking-glass 91 . 

Ale. You are in the right. I see there is nothing in it. I know 
not what else to say to this opinion, more than that it is so odd 
and contrary to my way of thinking that I shall never assent 
to it. 

13. Eufh. Be pleased to recollect your own lectures upon pre- 
judice, and apply them in the present case. Perhaps they may 
help you to follow where reason leads, and to suspect notions 
which are strongly rivetted, without having been ever examined. 

Ale. I disdain the suspicion of prejudice. And I do not speak 
only for myself. I know a club of most ingenious men, the freest 
from prejudice of any men alive, who abhor the notion of a God, 
and I doubt not would be very able to untie this knot. 

91 Cf. New Theory of Vision, sect. 45. Mental Philosophy, art. ' Existence,' in Ap- 
So also Jonathan Edwards, Remarks in pendix to Memoirs. 

1 56 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Upon which words of Alciphron, I, who had acted the part of an 
indifferent stander-by, observed to him That it misbecame his 
character and repeated professions, to own an attachment to the 
judgment, or build upon the presumed abilities of other men, 
how ingenious soever ; and that this proceeding might encourage 
his adversaries to have recourse to authority, in which perhaps 
they would find their account more than he. 

Oh ! said Crito, I -have often observed the conduct of minute 
philosophers. When one of them has got a ring of disciples 
round him, his method is to exclaim against prejudice, and re- 
commend thinking and reasoning, giving to understand that 
himself is a man of deep researches and close argument, one 
who examines impartially, and concludes warily. The same man, 
in other company, if he chance to be pressed with reason, shall 
laugh at logic, and assume the lafcy supine airs of a fine gentleman, 
a wit, a ratlleur^ to avoid the dryness of a regular and exact inquiry. 
This double face of the minute philosopher is of no small use 
to propagate and maintain his notions. Though to me it seems 
a plain case that if a fine gentleman will shake off authority, 
and appeal from religion to reason, unto reason he must go : 
and, if he cannot go without leading-strings, surely he had better 
be led by the authority of the public than by that of any knot 
of minute philosophers. 

Ale. Gentlemen, this discourse is very irksome, and needless. 
For my part, I am a friend to inquiry. I am willing reason should 
have its full and free scope. I build on no man's authority. For 
my part, I have no interest in denying a God. Any man may 
believe or not believe a God, as he pleases, for me. But, after all, 
Euphranor must allow me to stare a little at his conclusions. 

Eufh. The conclusions are yours as much as mine, for you were 
led to them by your own concessions. 

74. You, it seems, stare to find that God is not far from every 
one of us; and that in him we live, and move, and have our 
being. You, who, in the beginning of this morning's conference, 
thought it strange that God should leave Himself without a wit- 
ness, do now think it strange the witness should be so full and 

Ale. 1 must own I do. I was aware, indeed, of a certain 

The Fourth Dialogue. 157 

metaphysical hypothesis of our seeing all things in God by the 
union of the human soul with the intelligible substance of the 
Deity ^ which neither I, nor any one else could make sense of. 
But I never imagined it could be pretended that we saw God 
with our fleshly eyes as plain as we see any human person what- 
soever, and that he daily speaks to our senses in a manifest and 
clear dialect. 

Cri. [9 4 As for that metaphysical hypothesis, I can make no 
more of it than you. But I think it plain] this [Coptic] lan- 
guage hath a necessary connection with, knowledge, wisdom, 
and goodness. It is equivalent to a constant creation, be- 
tokening an immediate" act of power and providence. It cannot 
be accounted for by mechanical principles, by atoms, attractions, 
or effluvia. The instantaneous production and reproduction of 
so many signs, combined, dissolved, transposed, diversified, and 
adapted to such an endless variety of purposes, ever shifting with 
the occasions and suited to them, being utterly inexplicable and 
unaccountable by the laws of motion, by chance, by fate, or the 
like blind principles, doth set forth and testify the immediate 
operation of a spirit or thinking being j and not merely of a spirit, 
which every motion or gravitation may possibly infer, but of one 
wise, good, and provident Spirit, which directs and rules and 
governs the world. Some philosophers, being convinced of the 
wisdom and power of the Creator, from the make and contrivance 
of organized bodies and orderly system of the world, did never- 
theless imagine that he left this system with all its parts and 
contents well adjusted and put in motion, as an artist leaves 
a clock, to go thenceforward of itself for a certain period 96 . But 
this Visual Language proves, not a Creator merely, but a provident 
Governor, actually and intimately present, and attentive to all 
our interests and motions, who watches over our conduct, and 
takes care of our minutest actions and designs throughout the 
whole course of our lives, informing, admonishing, and directing 

92 Malebranche's hypothesis of the vision (1715 1716) between Clarke and Leibnitz, 
of the sensible world in God, which Berkeley pp. 3, 5, &c., and the Systeme Nouveau de 
here and elsewhere disclaims. la Nature of Leibnitz. Speculations of this 

93 Cf. sect. 5, and Principles of Human sort, regarding Nature, Creation, and Pro- 
Knowledge, sect. 147. vidence, were current in England in the 

94 Introduced in second edition. early part of last century, when metaphy- 

95 Introduced in second edition. sical discussion was stimulated by Locke, 

96 Cf. Siris, sect. 233; see also Papers Malebranche, Newton, Clarke, and Leibnitz. 

158 Alciphron, or the Mirtute Philosopher: 

incessantly, in a most evident and sensible manner. This is 
truly wonderful. 

Euph. And is it not so, that men should be encompassed by 
such a wonder, without reflecting on it ? 

15. Something there is of Divine and admirable in this Lan- 
guage, addressed to our eyes, that may well awaken the mind, and 
deserve its utmost attention : it is learned with so little pains : 
it expresseth the differences of things so clearly and aptly : it 
instructs with such facility and despatch, by one glance of the 
eye conveying a greater variety of advices, and a more distinct 
knowledge of things, than could be got by a discourse of several 
hours. And, while it informs, it amuses and entertains the mind 
with such singular pleasure and delight. It is of such excellent use 
in giving, a stability and permanency to human discourse, in 
recording sounds and bestowing life on dead languages, enabling 
us to converse with men of remote ages and countries. And 
it answers so apposite to the uses and necessities of mankind, 
informing us more distinctly of those objects whose nearness 
and magnitude qualify them to be of greatest detriment or benefit 
to our bodies, and less exactly in proportion as their littleness 
or distance makes them of less concern to us. 

Ale. And yet these strange things affect men but little. 

Euph. But they are not strange, they are familiar- and that 
makes them be overlooked. Things which rarely happen strike ; 
whereas frequency lessens the admiration of things, though in 
themselves ever so admirable. Hence, a common man, who is not 
used to think and make reflections, would probably be more 
convinced of the being of a God by one single sentence heard 
once in his life from the sky than by all the experience he 
has had of this Visual Language, contrived with such exquisite skill ? 
so constantly addressed to his eyes, and so plainly declaring the 
nearness, wisdom, and providence of Him with whom we have 
to do. 

Ale. After all, I cannot satisfy myself how men should be so 
little surprised or amazed about this visive faculty, if it was really 
of a nature so surprising and amazing. 

Euph. But let us suppose a nation of men blind from their 
infancy, among whom a stranger arrives, the only man who can 

The Fourth Dialogue. 159 

see in all the country; let us suppose this stranger travelling with 
some of the natives, and that one while he foretels to them 
that, in case they walk straight forward, in half a hour they shall 
meet men or cattle, or come to a house; that, if they turn to 
the right and proceed, they shall in a few minutes be in danger of 
falling down a precipice ; that, shaping their course to the left, 
they will in such a time arrive at a river, a wood, or a mountain. 
What think you ? Must they not be infinitely surprised that one 
who had never been in their country before should know it 
so much better than themselves ? And would not those predictions 
seem to them as unaccountable and incredible as Prophecy to 
a minute philosopher ? 

Ale. I cannot deny it. 

Euph. But it seems to require intense thought to be able to 
unravel a prejudice that has been so long forming ; to get over the 
vulgar errors or ideas common to both senses; and so to dis- 
tinguish between the objects of sight and touch % which have 
grown (if I may so say), blended together in our fancy, as to 
be able to suppose ourselves exactly in the state that one of 
those men would be in, if he were made to see. And yet this 
I believe is possible, and might seem worth the pains of a little 
thinking, especially to those men whose proper employment and 
profession it is to think, and unravel prejudices, and confute 

Ale. I frankly own I cannot find my way out of this maz-e, and 
should gladly be set right by those who see better than myself. 

Cri. The pursuing this subject in their own thoughts would 
possibly open a new scene to those speculative gentlemen of the 
minute philosophy. It puts me in mind of a passage in the 
Psalmist, where he represents God to be covered with light as 
with a garment, and would methinks be no ill comment on that 
ancient notion of some eastern sages that God had light for His 
body, and truth for His soul 98. 

This conversation lasted till a servant came to tell us the tea 

97 [See the annexed Treatise, wherein this prisingly confirmed, by a case of a person 
point and the whole Theory of Vision are made to see who had been blind from his 
more fully explained : the paradoxes of which birth. See Pbilos. Transact., No. 402.] 
Theory, though at first received with great AUTHOR. What follows the colon is con- 
ridicule by those who think ridicule the tained in the second edition only, 
test of truth, were many years after sur- 98 Cf. Siris, sect. 178, 179. 

160 AlciphroH) or the Minute Philosopher: 

was ready : upon which we walked in, and found Lysicles at the 

1 6. As soon as we sat down, I am glad, said Alciphron, that I 
have here found my second, a fresh man to maintain our common 
cause, which, I doubt, Lysicles will think hath suffered by his 

Lys. Why so ? 

Ale. I have been drawn into some concessions you will not like. 

Lys. Let me know what they are. 

Ale. Why, that there is such a thing as a God, and that His 
existence is very certain. 

Lys. Bless me ! How came you to entertain so wild a notion ? 

Ale. You know we profess to follow reason wherever it leads. 
And in short I have been reasoned into it. 

Lys. Reasoned ! You should say, amused with words, bewildered 
with sophistry. 

Eufh. Have you a mind to hear the same reasoning that led 
Alciphron and me step by step, that we may examine whether 
it be sophistry or no ? 

Lys. As to that I am very easy. I guess all that can be said 
on that head. It shall be my business to help my friend out, 
whatever arguments drew him in. 

Eufh. Will you admit the premises and deny the conclusions ? 

Lys. What if I admit the conclusion ? 

Eufh. How ! will you grant there is a God ? 

Lys. Perhaps I may. 

Eufh. Then we are agreed. 

Lys. Perhaps not. 

Eufh. O Lysicles, you are a subtle adversary. I know not 
what you would be at. 

Lys. You must know then that at bottom the being of a God 
is a point in itself of small consequence, and a man may make 
this concession without yielding much. The great point is what 
sense the word God is to be taken in". The very Epicureans 

99 The discussion here (sect. 16 24) and immediate, or merely analogical know- 
turns to the kind of existence which we ledge ? If analogical merely, is it true and 
may attribute to God, and the sort of know- real, or only metaphorical and illusory^ 
ledge of Him that is possible. Is it proper 

The Fourth Dialogue. 161 

allowed the being of gods; but then they were indolent gods, 
unconcerned with human affairs. Hobbes allowed a corporeal 
God : and Spinosa held the universe to be God. And yet nobody 
doubts they were staunch free-thinkers. I could wish indeed the 
word God were quite omitted; because in most minds it is 
coupled with a sort of superstitious awe, the very root of all 
religion. I shall not, nevertheless, be much disturbed, though 
the name be retained, and the being of a God allowed in any 
sense but in that of a Mind which knows all things, and beholds 
human actions, like some judge or magistrate, with infinite 
observation and intelligence. The belief of a God in this sense 
fills a man's mind with scruples, lays him under constraints, and 
embitters his very being : but in another sense it may be attended 
with no great ill consequence. This I know was the opinion of 
our great Diagoras, who told me he would never have been at 
the pains to find out a demonstration 100 that there was no God, if 
the received notion of God had been the same with that of some 
Fathers and Schoolmen. 
Euph. Pray what was that ? 

17. Lys. You must know, Diagoras, a man of much reading 
and inquiry, had discovered that once upon a time the most pro- 
found and speculative divines, finding it impossible to reconcile 
the attributes of God, taken in the common sense, or in any 
known sense, with human reason, and the appearances of things, 
taught that the words knowledge^ wisdom^ goodness^ and such 
like, when spoken of the Deity, must be understood in a quite 
different sense from what they signify in the vulgar acceptation, 
or from anything that we can form a notion of or conceive. 
Hence, whatever objections might be made against the attributes 
of God they easily solved by denying those attributes belonged to 
God, in this, or that, or any known particular sense or notion ; 
which was the same thing as to deny they belonged to Him at all. 
And thus denying the attributes of God, they in effect denied His 
being, though perhaps they were not aware of it. 

Suppose, for instance, a man should object that future contin- 
gencies were inconsistent with the Foreknowledge of God, because 

100 Cf. * Advertisement,' and Dial. I. sect. 12. 

1 62 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

it is repugnant that certain knowledge should be of an uncertain 
thing : it was a ready and an easy answer to say that this may be 
true with respect to knowledge taken in the common sense, or in 
any sense that we can possibly form any notion of; but that there 
would not appear the same inconsistency between the contingent 
nature of things and Divine Foreknowledge, taken to signify 
somewhat that we know nothing of, which in God supplies the 
place of what we understand by knowledge ; from which it differs 
not in quantity or degree of perfection, but altogether, and in 
kind, as light doth from sound ; and even more, since these agree 
in that they are both sensations ; whereas knowledge in God hath 
no sort of resemblance or agreement with any notion that man 
can frame of knowledge. The like may be said of all the other 
attributes, which indeed may by this means be equally reconciled 
with everything or with nothing. But all men who think must 
needs see this is cutting knots and not untying them. For, how 
are things reconciled with the Divine attributes when these 
attributes themselves are in every intelligible sense denied ; and, 
consequently, the very notion of God taken away, and nothing 
left but the name, without any meaning annexed to it ? In short, 
the belief that there is an unknown subject ] of attributes absolutely 
unknown is a very innocent doctrine ; which the acute Diagoras 
well saw, and was therefore wonderfully delighted with this 

1 8. For, said he, if this could once make its way and obtain in 
the world, there would be an end of all natural 'or rational reli- 
gion, which is the basis both of the Jewish and the Christian : 
for he who comes to God, or enters himself in the church of God, 
must first believe that there is a God in some intelligible sense ; 
and not only that there is something in general, without any 
proper notion, though never so inadequate, of any of its qualities 
or attributes: for this may be fate, or chaos, or plastic nature, 
or anything else as well as God. Nor will it avail to say There 
is something in this unknown being analogous to knowledge and 
goodness ; that is to say, which produceth those effects which we 

1 c. g. like the unknown material sub- Pbifanous. But then he acknowledges sen- 
stance against which Berkeley argues in his sible attributes. 
Principles, and Dialogues between Hylas and 

The Fourth Dialogue. 163 

could not conceive to be produced by men, in any degree, without 
knowledge and goodness. For, this is in fact to give up the point 
in dispute between theists and atheists the question having 
always been, not whether there was a Principle (which point was 
allowed by all philosophers, as well before as since Anaxagoras), 
but whether this Principle was a vovs, a thinking intelligent being : 
that is to say, whether that order, and beauty, and use, visible in 
natural effects, could be produced by anything but a Mind or 
Intelligence, in the proper sense of the word ? And whether there 
must not be true, real, and proper knowledge, in the First Cause ? 
We will, therefore, acknowledge that all those natural effects 
which are vulgarly ascribed to knowledge and wisdom proceed 
from a being in which there is, properly speaking, no knowledge 
or wisdom at all, but only something else, which in reality is the 
cause of those things which men, for want of knowing better, 
ascribe to what they call knowledge and wisdom and understand- 
ing. You wonder perhaps to hear a man of pleasure, who diverts 
himself as I do, philosophize at this rate. But you should con- 
sider that much is to be got by conversing with ingenious men, 
which is a short way to knowledge, that saves a man the drudgery 
of reading and thinking. 

And, now we have granted to you that there is a God in 
this indefinite sense, I would fain see what use you can make 
of this concession. You cannot argue from unknown attri- 
butes, or, which is the same thing, from attributes in an unknown 
sense. You cannot prove that God is to be loved for His 
goodness, or feared for His justice, or respected for His know- 
ledge : all which consequences, we own, would follow from 
those attributes admitted in an intelligible sense. But we deny 
that those or any other consequences can be drawn from attributes 
admitted in no particular sense, or in a sense which none of us 
understand. Since, therefore, nothing can be inferred from such 
an account .of God, about conscience, or worship or religion, you 
may even make the best of it. And, not to be singular, we will 
use the name too, and so at once there is an end of atheism. 

Euph. This account of a Deity is new to me. I do not like it, 
and therefore shall leave it to be maintained by those who do. 

1 9. Crt. It is not new to me. I remember not long since to 

M 2 

164 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

have heard a minute philosopher triumph upon this very point; 
which put me on inquiring what foundation there was for it in 
the Fathers or Schoolmen. And, for aught that I can find, it owes 
its original to those writings which have been published under the 
name of Dionysius the Areopagite*. The author of which, it must 
be owned, hath written upon the Divine attributes in a very 
singular style. In his treatise of the Celestial Hierarchy 3 , he 
saith that God is something above all essence and life, vrcep itavav 
ova-lav KCU fcorji; ; and again, in his treatise of the Divine Names ', 
that He is above all wisdom and understanding, v^p itacrav o-o</>iW 
KCU crvvww, ineffable and innominable, apprjros Kul d/xc5in>/xos ; the 
wisdom of God he terms an unreasonable, unintelligent, and 
foolish wisdom ; TYJV oAoyoy, KCU avow, KOL ptcopai; votyiav. But then 
the reason he gives for expressing himself in this strange manner 
is, that the Divine wisdom is the cause of all reason, wisdom, 
and understanding, and therein are contained the treasures of all 
wisdom and knowledge. He calls God vnepo-o^os and uTnfpfcosj 
as if wisdom and life were words not worthy to express the Divine 
perfections: and he adds that the attributes unintelligent and 
unperceiving must be ascribed to the Divinity, not Kar^ &Aet\/az>, 
by way of defect, but KaO* vTtpoyj\ v ) by way of eminency ; which 
he explains by our giving the name of darkness to light inac- 
cessible. And, notwithstanding the harshness of his expressions in 
some places, he affirms over and over in others that God knows 
all things ; not that He is beholden to the creatures for His 
knowledge, but by knowing Himself, from whom they all derive 
their being, and in whom they are contained as in their cause. 
It was late before these writings appear to have been known in 

a The books attributed to Dionysius the oftrta, or substance, can properly be applied 

Areopagite, who was said to be a contem- to Him. God, according to the pseudo- 

porary of the Apostles, and first Bishop of Dionysius, transcends all negation and affir- 

Athens, were in vogue among the mystics mation (VTT^P trncrav Kal a(fKnlpfffiy Kal 

of the middle ages. They belong probably dfViv). In fact, the hyperbolical language 

to the third or fourth century, if not to a attributed to Dionysius, and employed by 

later period. They are entitled De Hier- some Fathers of the Church, hardly falls 

arcbia C&lestia, De Nominibus Divinis, De short of the paradox of Oken, which iden- 

Hierarcbia Ecclesiastica, and De Tbeologia tifies God with Nothing. He is farepdy- 

Mystica. Various editions of them appeared vtacrTos (more than unknown), &i>virapK- 

in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. ros (without existence), kvoboios (unsub- 

In common with many works of the early stantial). 

Fathers of the Church, they allege, in the 3 [DeHierarcb. Ccelest. cap a.] AUTHOR. 

strongest language, man'* necessary igno- 4 [De Norn. Div. cap. 7.] AUTHOR. 
ranee of God, and deny that even the term 

The Fourth Dialogue. 165 

the world; and, although they obtained credit during the age of 
the Schoolmen, yet, since critical learning hath been cultivated, 
they have lost that credit, and are at this day given up for 
spurious, as containing several evident marks of a much later 
date than the age of Dionysius. Upon the whole, although this 
method of growing in expression and dwindling in notion, of 
clearing up doubts by nonsense, and avoiding difficulties by 
running into affected contradictions, may perhaps proceed from 
a well-meant zeal, yet it appears not to be according to know- 
ledge; and, instead of reconciling atheists to the truth, hath, 
I doubt, a tendency to confirm them in their own persuasion. 
It should seem, therefore, very weak and rash in a Christian to 
adopt this harsh language of an apocryphal writer preferably 
to that of the Holy Scriptures. I remember, indeed, to have read 
of a certain philosopher, who lived some centuries ago, that used 
to say if these supposed works of Dionysius had been known to 
the primitive Fathers, they would have furnished them admirable 
weapons against the heretics, and would have saved a world of 
pains. But the event since their discovery hath by no means 
confirmed his opinion. 

It must be owned, the celebrated Picus of Mirandula 5 , among 
his nine hundred conclusions (which that prince, being very 
young, proposed to maintain by public disputation at Rome), 
hath this for one- to wit, that it is more improper to say 
of God, He is an intellect or intelligent Being, than to say 
of a reasonable soul that it is an angel : which doctrine it 
seems was not relished. And Picus, when he comes to defend 
it, supports himself altogether by the example and authority of 
Dionysius, and in effect explains it away into a mere verbal 
difference affirming that neither Dionysius nor himself ever 
meant to deprive God of knowledge, or to deny that He knows 
all things ; but that, as reason is of kind peculiar to man, so by 
intellection he understands a kind or manner of knowing peculiar 
to angels ; and that the knowledge which is in God is more above 
the intellection of angels than angel is above man. He adds 

5 John Picus, Count of Mirandula, who The disputation in which he proposed to 

lived in the fifteenth century, sought to har- defend his famous nine hundred theses never 

monize Plato and Aristotle, and referred the took place. They were published at Rome 

philosophy of Plato to the books of Moses. in 1486. 

166 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

that, as his tenet consists with admitting the most perfect know- 
ledge in God, so he would by no means be understood to exclude 
from the Deity intellection itself, taken in the common or general 
sense, but only that peculiar sort of intellection proper to angels, 
which he thinks ought not to be attributed to God any more 
than human reason. Picus 6 , therefore, though he speaks as the 
apocryphal Dionysiiis, yet, when he explains himself, it is evident 
he speaks like other men. And, although the forementioned books 
of the Celestial Hierarchy and of the Divine Names, being attri- 
buted to a saint and martyr of the apostolical age, were respected 
by the Schoolmen, yet it is certain they rejected or softened his 
harsh expressions, and explained away or reduced his doctrine to 
the received notions taken from Holy Scripture and the light of 

20. Thomas Aquinas expresseth his sense of this point in the 
following manner. All perfections, saith he, derived from God 
to the creatures are in a certain higher sense, or (as the School- 
men term it) eminently in God. Whenever, therefore, a name 
borrowed from any perfection in the creature is attributed to 
God, we must exclude from its signification everything that 
belongs to the imperfect manner wherein that attribute is found 
in the creature. Whence he concludes that knowledge in God 
is not a habit but a pure act 7. And again, the same Doctor 
observes that our intellect gets its notions of all sorts of per- 
fections from the creatures, and that as it apprehends those 
perfections so it signifies them by names. Therefore, saith he, 
in attributing these names to God we are to consider two things : 
first the perfections themselves, as goodness, life, and the like, 
which are properly in God; and secondly, the manner which 
is peculiar to the creature, and cannot, strictly and properly 
speaking, be said to agree to the Creator 8 . 

And although Suarez, with other Schoolmen, teacheth that 
the mind of man conceiveth knowledge and will to be in 
God as faculties or operations, by analogy only to created 
beings, yet he gives it plainly as his opinion that when 

8 [Pic. Mirand. in Apolog. p. 155, ed, AUTHOR. 

Bas.] AUTHOR. 8 [Ibid, quest, xiii. art. iii.] AUTHOR. 

7 [Sum. Tbeolog. p. I. quest, xiv. art. I.] 

The Fourth Dialogue. 167 

knowledge is said not to be properly in God it must be un- 
derstood in a sense including imperfection, such as discursive 
knowledge, or the like imperfect kind found in the creatures: 
and that, none of those imperfections in the knowledge of men 
or angels belonging to the formal notion of knowledge, or to 
knowledge as such, it will not thence follow that knowledge, 
in its proper formal sense, may not be attributed to God. And 
of knowledge taken in general for the clear evident understanding 
of all truth, he expressly affirms that it is in God, and that this 
was never denied by any philosopher who believed a God 9. It 
was, indeed, a current opinion in the schools that even Being 
itself should be attributed analogically to God and the creatures. 
That is, they held that God, the supreme, independent, self- 
originate cause and source of all beings, must not be supposed to 
exist in the same sense with created beings ; not that He exists 
less truly, properly, or formally than they, but only because He 
exists in a more eminent and perfect manner. 

21. But, to prevent any man's being led, by mistaking the 
scholastic use of the terms analogy and analogical^ into an opinion 
that we cannot frame in any degree a true and proper notion 
of attributes applied by analogy, or, in the school phrase, predicated 
analogically, it may not be amiss to inquire into the true sense 
and meaning of those words. Every one knows that analogy is a 
Greek word used by mathematicians to signify a similitude of 
proportions. For instance, when we observe that two is to six 
as three is to nine, this similitude or equality of proportion is 
termed analogy. And, although proportion strictly signifies the 
habitude or relation of one quantity to another, yet, in a looser 
and translated sense, it hath been applied to signify every other 
habitude ; and, consequently, the term analogy comes to signify all 
similitude of relations or habitudes whatsoever. Hence the 
Schoolmen tell us there is analogy between intellect and sight j 
forasmuch as intellect Is to the mind what sight is to the body, 
and that he who governs the state is analogous to him who steers 
a ship. Hence a prince is analogically styled a pilot, being to the 
state as a pilot is to his vessel 10 . 

9 [Saurez,Dis. Metapl.iom. II. 10 [Vide Cajetan. de Norn. Analog. 
sect. 15.] AUTHOR. cap. 3.] AUTHOR. 

1 68 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

For the further clearing of this point, it is to be observed 
that a twofold analogy is distinguished by the schoolmen 
metaphorical and proper. Of the first kind there are frequent 
instances in Holy Scripture, attributing human parts and pas- 
sions to God. When He is represented "as having a finger, 
an eye, or an ear; when He is said to repent, to be angry, 
or grieved ; every one sees that analogy is metaphorical. Be- 
cause those parts and passions, taken in the proper signifi- 
cation, must in every degree necessarily, and from the formal 
nature of the thing, include imperfection. When, therefore, 
it is said the finger of God appears in this or that event, men of 
common sense mean no more but that it is as truly ascribed to 
God as the works wrought by human fingers are to man: and 
so of the rest. But the case is different when wisdom and know- 
ledge are attributed to God. Passions and senses, as such, imply 
defect ; but in knowledge simply, or as such, there is no defect. 
Knowledge, therefore, in the proper formal meaning of the word, 
may be attributed to God proportionably, that is, preserving a 
proportion to the infinite nature of God. We may say, therefore, 
that as God is infinitely above man, so is the knowledge of God 
infinitely above the knowledge of man, and this is what Cajetan 
calls analogia proprie fact a. And after this same analogy we must * 
understand all those attributes to belong to the Deity which in 
themselves simply, and as such, denote perfection. We may, 
therefore, consistently with what hath been premised, affirm that 
all sorts of perfection which we can conceive in a finite spirit are 
in Qod, but without any of that allay which is found in the crea- 
tures. This doctrine, therefore, of analogical perfections in God, 
or our knowing God by analogy, seems very much misunderstood 
and misapplied by those who would infer from thence that we 
cannot frame any direct or proper notion, though never so inade- 
quate, of knowledge or wisdom, as they are in the Deity; or under- 
stand any more of them than one born blind can of light and 
colours 11 . 

11 The theory that man can have only an appeared in 1699. ** * s tnere maintained 

analogical knowledge of God and the super- that we have no immediate or proper idea of 

natural was much discussed in the early part God and His attributes, and that our only 

of last century. Among other replies to possible conception of things supernatural 

Toland's Christianity not Mysterious (1696) is by the mediation of our ideas of ourselves 

was a Letter by Peter Brown (or Browne), and of nature in a word, by analogy. The 

afterwards Bishop of Cork and Ross, which author explains in detail what he means by 

The Fourth Dialogue. 169 

22. And now, gentlemen, it may be expected I should ask 
your pardon for having dwelt so long on a point of metaphysics, 
and introduced such unpolished and unfashionable writers as the 
Schoolmen into good company : but, as Lysicles gave the occasion, 
I leave him to answer for it. 

Lyf. I never dreamt of this dry dissertation. But, if I have 
been the occasion of discussing these scholastic points, by my 
unluckily mentioning the Schoolmen, it was my first fault of the 
kind, and I promise it shall be the last. The meddling with 
crabbed authors of any sort is none of my taste. I grant one meets 
now and then with a good notion in what we call dry writers, such 
a one for example as this I was speaking of, which I must own 
struck my fancy. But then, for these we have such as Prodicus or 
Diagoras, who look into obsolete books, and save the rest of us 
that trouble. 

Cri. So you pin your faith upon them ? 

Lys. It is only for some odd opinions, and matters of fact, and 
critical points. Besides, we know the men to whom we give 
credit : they are judicious and honest, and have no end to serve 
but truth. And I am confident some author or other has main- 
tained the forementioned notion in the same sense as Diagoras 
related it. 

Cr/. That may be. But it never was a received notion, and 
never will, so long as men believe a God : the same arguments 
that prove a first cause proving an intelligent cause ; intelligent, 
I say, in the proper sense wise and good in the true and formal 
acceptation of the words. Otherwise, it is evident that every 
syllogism brought to prove those attributes, or, which is the same 

this analogical knowledge of God, and vin- (1728), and especially in his Things Divine 
dicates his theory by the authority, among and Supernatural conceived by Analogy with 
others, of early Fathers of the Church. In Things Natural and Human ( 1733). Brown, 
1 709, Archbishop King published a Sermon who was Provost of Trinity College, Dublin 
on the Consistency of Predestination and (1699-1710), when Berkeley was under- 
Foreknowledge with the Freedom of Man's graduate and Fellow, was afterwards Bishop 
Will, which he defended professedly on the of Cork and Ross till his death in 1735. 
same foundation of analogy ; but in an in- Tennemann says that Berkeley's Alcipbron 
cautious and indistinct manner, which seemed was written as a reply to him, although only 
to imply that our highest conceptions of God the few sections in this Dialogue are de- 
are actually untrue that they are mere me- voted to analogy, which has since been a 
taphors, which mean nothing real. Bishop favourite theme with certain English divines 
Brown restates and defends at great length and others. See Skelton's Letter to the 
his own doctrine of the nature and limits of Authors of the Divine Analogy and the 
our religious knowledge, in his Procedure, Minute Philosopher^ in vol. v, of Skelton's 
Extent, and Limits of Human Understanding Works. 

170 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

thing, to prove the being of a God, will be found to consist of 
four terms, and consequently can conclude nothing. But for your 
part, Alciphron, you have been fully convinced that God is a 
thinking intelligent being, in the same sense with other spirits ; 
though not in the same imperfect manner or degree 12 . 

23. Ale. And yet I am not without my scruples: for, with 
knowledge you infer wisdom, and with wisdom goodness. [ J3 Though 
I cannot see that it is either wise or good to enact such laws as 
can never be obeyed. 

Cri. Doth any one find fault with the exactness of geometrical 
rules, because no one in practice can attain to it ? The perfection 
of a rule is useful, even though it is not reached. Many approach 
what all may fall short of. 

Alc.~] But how is it possible to conceive God so good and man so 
wicked ? It may, perhaps, with some colour be alleged that a little 
soft shadowing of evil sets off the bright and luminous parts of the 
creation, and so contributes to the beauty of the whole piece ; but 
for blots so large and so black it is impossible to account by that 
principle. That there should be so much vice, and so little virtue 
upon earth, and that the laws of God's kingdom should be so ill 
observed by His subjects, is what can never be reconciled with that 
surpassing wisdom and goodness of the supreme Monarch. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, would you argue that a state was ill 
administered, or judge of the manners of its citizens, by the dis- 
orders committed in the jail or dungeon ? 

Ah. I would not. 

Euph. And, for aught we know, this spot, with the few sinners on 
it, bears no greater proportion to the universe of intelligences 
than a dungeon doth to a kingdom. It seems we are led not only 
by revelation, but by common sense, observing and inferring from 
the analogy of visible things, to conclude there are innumerable 
orders of intelligent beings more happy and more perfect than 

13 Berkeley, at least in his early writings, with its paradoxes and antinomies. Cf. Dial, 

regards our knowledge of God as similar III. sect. 10, 1 1, and Dial. VII. passim ; also 

in origin to our knowledge of other finite New Theory of Vision, sect. 8 1, 123 ; Prin- 

spirits different only in degree. He con- ciples of Human Knowledge, sect. 119, 

ceives the universe as a hierarchy of minds, 123 132 ; Analyst, passim, 
with the Divine Mind supreme. In the 13 Added in second edition, omitted in 

essentially practical spirit of his philosophy, later editions, 
he eliminates the problem of the Infinite 

The Fourth Dialogue. 171 

man ; whose life is but a span, and whose place, this earthly globe, 
is but a point, in respect of the whole system of God's creation. 
We are dazzled, indeed, with the glory and grandeur of things here 
below, because we know no better. But, I am apt to think, if we 
knew what it was to be an angel for one hour, we should return to 
this world, though it were to sit on the brightest throne in it, with 
vastly more loathing and reluctance than we would now descend 
into a loathsome dungeon or sepulchre. 


24. Cr/. To me it seems natural that sucfr a weak, passionate, 
and short-sighted creature as man should be ever liable to scruples 
of one kind or other. But, as this same creature is apt to be over- 
positive in judging, and over-hasty in concluding, it falls out that 
these difficulties and scruples about God's conduct are made ob- 
jections to His being. And so men come to argue from their own 
defects against the Divine perfections. And, as the views and 
humours of men are different and often opposite, you may some- 
times see them deduce the same atheistical conclusions from 
contrary premises. I knew an instance of this in two minute 
philosophers of my acquaintance, who used to argue each from his 
own temper against a Providence. One of them, a man of a 
choleric and vindictive spirit, said he could not believe a Provi- 
dence, because London was not swallowed up or consumed by fire 
from heaven ; the streets being, as he said, full of people who shew 
no other belief or worship of God but perpetually praying that He 
would damn, rot, sink, and confound them. The other, being of 
an indolent easy temper, concluded there could be no such thing 
as Providence ; for that a being of consummate wisdom must needs 
employ himself better than in minding the prayers and actions 
and little interests of mankind. 

Ale. After all, if God have no passions, how can it be true that 
vengeance is His ? Or how can He be said to be jealous of His 
glory ? 

Cr/. We believe that God executes vengeance without revenge, 
and is jealous without weakness, just as the mind of man sees 
without eyes, and apprehends without hands. 

25. Ale. To put a period to this discourse, we will grant there 
is a God in this dispassionate sense : but what then ? What hath 

172 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher. 

this to do with Religion or Divine worship? To what purpose are 
all these prayers, and praises, and thanksgivings, and singing of 
psalms, which the foolish vulgar call serving God ? What sense, or 
use, or end is there in all these things ? 

Cri. We worship God, we praise and pray to Him : not because 
we think that He is proud of our worship, or fond of our praise or 
prayers, and affected with them as mankind are ; or that all our 
service can contribute in the least degree to His happiness or good : 
but because it is good for us to be so disposed towards God : because 
it is just and right, and suitable to the nature of things, and 
becoming the relation we stand in to our supreme Lord and 

Ale. If it be good for us to worship God, it should seem that 
the Christian Religion, which pretends to teach men the knowledge 
and worship of God, was of some use and benefit to mankind. 

Cri. Doubtless. 

Ale. If this can be made appear, I shall own myself very much 

Cri. It is now near dinner-time. Wherefore, if you please, we 
will put an end to this conversation for the present, and to-morrow 
morning resume our subject. 


I. Minute philosophers join in the cry, and follow the scent, of others. 2. Worship pre- 
scribed by the Christian religion suitable to God and man. 3. Power and influence of 
the Druids. 4. Excellency and usefulness of the Christian religion. 5. It ennobles man- 
kind, and makes them happy. 6. Religion neither bigotry nor superstition. 7. Phy- 
sicians and physic for the soul. 8. Character of the clejgy. 9. Natural religion and 
human reason not to be disparaged. 10. Tendency and use of the Gentile religion. 
II. Good effects of Christianity. 12. Englishmen compared with ancient Greeks and 
Romans. 13. The modern practice of duelling. 14. Character of the old Romans, 
how to be formed. 15. Genuine fruits of the Gospel. 16. Wars and factions not an 
effect of the Christian religion. 17. Civil rage and massacres in Greece and Rome. 
1 8. Virtue of the ancient Greeks. 19. Quarrels of polemical divines. 20. Tyranny, 
usurpation, and sophistry of Ecclesiastics. 21. The universities censured. 22. Divine 
writings of a certain modern critic. 23. Learning the effect of religion. 24. Barbarism 
of the schools. 25. Restoration of learning and polite arts, to whom owing. 26. Pre- 
judice and ingratitude of minute philosophers. 27. Their pretensions and conduct 
inconsistent. 28. Men and brutes compared with respect to religion. 29. Christianity 
the only means to establish natural religion. 30. Free-thinkers mistake their talents ; 
have a strong imagination. 31. Tithes and church -lands. 32. Men distinguished from 
human creatures. 33. Distribution of mankind into birds, beasts, and fishes. 34. Plea 
for reason allowed, but unfairness taxed. 35. Freedom a blessing, or a curse, as it is 
used. 36. Priestcraft not the reigning evil. 

i. WE amused ourselves next day every one to his fancy till 
nine of the clock, when word was brought that the tea-table was 
set in the library, which is a gallery on the ground-floor, with an 
arched door at one end opening into a walk of limes , where, as 
soon as we had drunk tea, we were tempted by fine weather 
to take a walk which led us to a small mount of easy ascent, 
on the top whereof we found a seat under a spreading tree. Here 
we had a prospect on one hand of a narrow bay or creek of the sea, 
enclosed on either side by a coast beautified with rocks and 
woods, and green banks and farm-houses. At the end of the bay 
was a small town, placed upon the slope of a hill, which, from 
the advantage of its situation, made a considerable figure. Several 
fishing-boats and lighters, gliding up and down on a surface as 

14 The discussion here passes from General The utility of the Christian worship and 
Ethics and Natural Religion to Christianity. faith is the subject of the Fifth Dialogue. 

174 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

smooth and bright as glass, enlivened the prospect. On the other 
side, we looked down on green pastures, flocks, and herds basking 
beneath in sunshine, while we, in our superior situation, enjoyed 
the freshness of air and shade. 

Here we felt that sort of joyful instinct which a rural scene 
and fine weather inspire; and proposed no small pleasure in 
resuming and continuing our conference without interruption 
till dinner. But we had hardly seated ourselves and looked 
about us when we saw a fox run by the foot of our mount 
into an adjacent thicket. A few minutes after, we heard a 
confused noise of the opening of hounds, and winding of horns, 
and the roaring of couritry squires. While our attention was 
suspended by this event, a servant came running, out of breath, 
and told Crito that his neighbour Ctesippus, a squire of note, 
was fallen from his horse, attempting to leap over a hedge, and 
brought into the hall, where he lay for dead. Upon which we all 
rose, and walked hastily to the house, where we found Ctesippus 
just come to himself, in the midst of half-a-dozen sun-burnt 
squires, in frocks, and short wigs, and jockey-boots. Being asked 
how he did, he answered it was only a broken rib. With some 
difficulty Crito persuaded him to lie on a bed till the chirurgeon 
came. These fox-hunters, having been up early at their sport, 
were eager for dinner, which was accordingly hastened. They 
passed the afternoon in a loud rustic mirth, gave proof of their 
religion and loyalty by the healths they drank, talked of hounds, 
and horses, and elections, and country fairs, till the chirurgeon, who 
had been employed about Ctesippus, desired he might be put into 
Crito's coach, and sent home, having refused to stay all night. 

Our guests being gone, we reposed ourselves after the fatigue 
of this tumultuous visit, and next morning assembled again at the 
seat on the mount. 

Now Lysicles, being a nice man and a bel esprit, had an 
infinite contempt for the rough manners and conversation of 
fox-hunters, and could not reflect with patience that he had 
lost, as he called it, so many hours in their company. I flattered 
myself, said he, that there had been none of this species remaining 
among us: strange that men should be diverted with such un- 
couth noise and hurry, or find pleasure in the society of dogs and 
horses ! How much more elegant are the diversions of the town ! 

The Fifth Dialogue. 175 

There seems, replied Euphranor, to be some resemblance 
between fox-hunters and free-thinkers; the former exerting 
their animal faculties in pursuit of game, as you gentlemen employ 
your intellectuals in the pursuit of truth. The kind of amusement 
is the same, although the object be different. 

Lys. I had rather be compared to any brute upon earth than a 
rational brute. 

Cri. You would then have been less displeased with my friend 
Pythocles, whom I have heard compare the common sort of minute 
philosophers not to the hunters but the hounds. For, said he, 
you shall often see among the dogs a loud babbler, with a bad 
nose, lead the unskilful part of the pack, who join all in his cry 
without following any scent of their own, any more than the herd 
of free-thinkers follow their own reason. 

2. But Pythocles was a blunt man, and must never have known 
such reasoners among them as you gentlemen, who can sit so 
long at an argument, dispute every inch of ground, and yet know 
when to make a reasonable concession. 

Lys. I do not know how it comes to pass, but methinks Alci- 
phron makes concession for himself and me too. For my own 
part, I am not altogether of such a yielding temper ; but yet I do 
not care to be singular neither. 

Cri. Truly, Alciphron, when I consider where we are got, and 
how far we are agreed, I conceive it probable we may agree 
altogether in the end. You have granted that a life of virtue is 
upon all accounts eligible, as most conducive both to the general 
and particular good of mankind ; and you allow that the beauty of 
virtue alone is not a sufficient motive with mankind to the prac- 
tice of it. This led you to acknowledge that the belief of a God 
would be very useful in the world ; and that, consequently, you 
should be disposed to admit any reasonable proof of His being : 
which point hath been proved, and you have admitted the proof. 

If then we admit a Divinity, why not Divine worship ? And if 
worship, why not religion to teach this worship ? And if a religion, 
why not the Christian, if a better cannot be assigned, and it be 
already established by the laws of our country, and handed down 
to us from our forefathers ? Shall we believe a God, and not pray 
to him for future benefits, nor thank him for the past ? Neither 

176 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

trust. in his protection, nor love his goodness, nor praise his 
wisdom, nor adore his power ? And if these things are to be done, 
can we do them in a way more suitable to the dignity of God or 
man than is prescribed by the Christian religion ? 

Ale. I am not, perhaps, altogether sure that religion must be 
absolutely bad for the public : but I cannot bear to see policy and 
religion walk hand in hand. I do not like to see human rights 
attached to the Divine. I am for no fontifex maximus, such as in 
ancient or in modern Rome; no high-priest, as in Judeaj no 
royal priests, as in Egypt and Sparta ; no such things as Dairos of 
Japan, or Lamas of Tartary. 

3. I knew a late witty gentleman of our sect who was a great 
admirer of the ancient Druids. He had a mortal antipathy to the 
present established religion, but used to say he should like well 
to see the Druids and their religion restored, as it anciently 
flourished in Gaul and Britain ; for, it would be right enough that 
there should be a number of contemplative men set apart to 
preserve a knowledge of arts and sciences, to educate youth, and 
teach men the immortality of the soul and the moral virtues. 
Such, said he, were the Druids of old, and I should be glad to see 
them once more established among us. 

Cri. How would you like, Alciphron, that priests should have 
power to decide all controversies, and adjudge property, distribute 
rewards and punishments ; that all who did not acquiesce in their 
decrees should be excommunicated, held in abhorrence, excluded 
from all honours and privileges, and deprived of the common 
benefit of the laws ; and that now and then a number of laymen 
should be crammed together in a wicker-idol, and burnt for an 
offering to their pagan gods? How should you like living under 
such priests and such a religion ? 

Ale. Not at all. Such a situation would by no means agree 
with free-thinkers. 

Cri. And yet such were the Druids and such their religion, if we 
may trust Caesar's account of them 15 . 

Lys. I am now convinced more than ever there ought to be no 
such thing as an established religion of any kind. Certainly all 

15 [De Bella Gallico, lib. VI. 16.] AUTHOR. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 177 

the nations of the world have been hitherto out of their wits. 
Even the Athenians themselves, the wisest and freest people upon 
earth, had I know not what foolish attachment to their established 
church. They offered, it seems, a talent as a reward to whoever 
should kill Diagoras the Melian, a free-thinker of those times, who 
derided their mysteries: and Protagoras, another of the same 
turn, narrowly escaped being put to death, for having wrote some- 
thing that seemed to contradict their received notions of the gods. 
Such was the treatment our generous sect met with at Athens. 
And I make no doubt that these Druids t would have sacrificed 
many a holocaust of free-thinkers. I would not give a single 
farthing to exchange one religion for another. Away with all 
together, root and branch, or you had as good do nothing. No 
Druids or priests of any sort for me : I see no occasion for any 
of them. 

4. Euph. What Lysicles saith puts me in mind of the close of 
our last conference, wherein it v was agreed in the following to 
resume the point we were then entered upon : to wit, the use or 
benefit of the Christian religion, which Alciphron expected Crito 
should make appear. 

Cri. I am the readier to undertake this point, because I conceive 
it to be no difficult one, and that one great mark of the truth of 
Christianity is, in my mind, its tendency to do good, which seems 
the north star to conduct our judgment in moral matters, and in all 
things of a practical nature ; moral or practical truths being ever 
connected with universal benefit. But, to judge rightly of this 
matter, we should endeavour to act like Lysicles upon another 
occasion, taking into our view the sum of things, and considering 
principles as branched forth into consequences to the utmost 
extent we are able. We are not so much to regard the humour, or 
caprice, or imaginary distresses of a few idle men, whose conceit 
may be offended though their conscience cannot be wounded ; but 
fairly to consider the true interest of individuals, as well as of 
human society. Now, the Christian religion, considered as a 
fountain of light, and joy, and peace ; as a source of faith, and hope, 
and charity (and that it is so will be evident to whoever takes his 
notion of it from the gospel), must needs be a principle of happi- 
ness and virtue. And he who sees not that the destroying the 


178 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

principles of good actions must destroy good actions sees nothing : 
and he who, seeing this, shall yet persist to do it, if he be not 
wicked, who is ? 

5. To me it seems the man can see neither deep nor far, who is 
not sensible of his own misery, sinfulness, and dependence who 
doth not perceive that this present world is not designed or 
adapted to make rational souls happy ; who would not be glad of 
getting into a better state ; and who would not be overjoyed to find 
that the road leading ^thither was the love of God and man, the 
practising every virtue, the living reasonably while we are here 
upon earth, proportioning our esteem to the value of things, and 
so using this world as not to abuse it. For this is what Christianity 
requires. It neither enjoins the nastiness of the Cynic, nor the 
insensibility of the Stoic. Can there be a higher ambition than to 
overcome the world, or a wiser than to subdue ourselves, or a more 
comfortable doctrine than the remission of sins, or a more joyful 
prospect than that of having our base nature renewed and assimi- 
lated to the Deity, our being made fellow-citizens with angels, and 
sons of God ? Did ever Pythagoreans, or Platonists, or Stoics, even 
in idea or in wish, propose to the mind of man purer means, or a 
nobler end? How great a share of our happiness depends upon 
hope ! How totally is this extinguished by the minute philosophy ! 
On the other hand, how is it cherished and raised by the gospel ! 
Let any man who thinks in earnest but consider these things, and 
then say which he thinks deserveth best of mankind he who 
recommends, or he who runs down Christianity ? Which he thinks 
likelier to lead a happy life, to be a hopeful son, an honest dealer, 
a worthy patriot he who sincerely believes the gospel, or he who 
believes not one tittle of it ? He who aims at being a child of 
God, or he who is contented to be thought, and to be, one of 
Epicurus's hogs? And, in fact, do but scan the characters, and 
observe the behaviour of the common sort of men on both sides : 
observe, and say which live most agreeably to the dictates of rea- 
son ? How things should be, the reason is plain ; how they are, I 
appeal to fact, 

6. Ale. It is wonderful to observe how things change appear- 
ance, as they are viewed in different lights, or by different eyes. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 179 

The picture, Crito, that I form of religion is very unlike yours, 
when I consider how it unmans the soul, filling it with absurd 
reveries, and slavish fears ; how it extinguishes the gentle passions, 
inspiring a spirit of malice, and rage, and persecution ; when I 
behold bitter resentments and unholy wrath in those very men 
who preach up meekness and charity to others. 

Cri. It is very possible that gentlemen of your sect may think 
religion a subject beneath their attention ; but yet it seems that 
whoever sets up for opposing any doctrine should know what it is 
he disputes against. Know, then, that religion is the virtuous 
mean between incredulity and superstition. We do not therefore 
contend for superstitious follies, or for the rage of bigots. What 
we plead for is, religion against profaneness, law against confusion, 
virtue against vice, the hope of a Christian against the despon- 
dency of an atheist. I will not justify bitter resentments and 
unholy wrath in any man, much less in a Christian, and least of 
all in a clergyman. But, if sallies of human passion should some- 
times appear even in the best, it will not surprise any one who 
reflects on the sarcasms and ill manners with which they are 
treated by the minute philosophers. For, as Cicero somewhere 
observes, Habet yuendam aculeum contumelta^ <juem fatl frudentes ac 
<viri boni dtfficillime possunt. But, although you might sometimes 
observe particular persons, professing themselves Christians, run 
into faulty extremes of any kind, through passion and infirmity, 
while infidels of a more calm and dispassionate temper shall 
perhaps behave better yet these natural tendencies on either 
side prove nothing, either in favour of infidel principles, or against 
Christian. If a believer doth evil, it is owing to the man, not to 
his belief. And if an infidel doth good, it is owing to the man, 
and not to his infidelity 16 . 

7. Lys. To cut this matter short, 1 shall borrow an allusion to 
physic, which one of you made use of against our sect. It will 
not be denied that the clergy pass for physicians of the soul, and 
that religion is a sort of medicine which they deal in and ad- 
minister. If then souls in great numbers are diseased and lost, 
how can we think the physician skilful, or his physic good ? It is a 

18 Cf. sect. 15, 20, 
N 2 

180 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

common complaint that vice increases, and men grow daily more 
and more wicked. If a shepherd's flock be diseased or unsound, 
who is to blame but the shepherd, for neglecting, or not knowing 
how to cure them? A fig therefore for such shepherds, such 
physic, and such physicians, who, like other mountebanks, with 
great gravity, and elaborate harangues, put off their pills to the 
people, who are never the better for them. 

Euph. Nothing seems more reasonable than this remark that 
men should judge of a physician and his physic by its effect on the 
sick. But pray, Lysicl^s, would you judge of a physician by those 
sick who take his physic, and follow his prescriptions, or by those 
who do not ? 

Lys. Doubtless by those who do. 

Euph. What shall we say then, if great numbers refuse to take 
the physic, or instead of it take poison of a direct contrary nature, 
prescribed by others, who make it their business to discredit the 
physician and his medicines, to hinder men from using them, and 
to destroy their effect by drugs of their own ? Shall the physician 
be blamed for the miscarriage of those people ? 

Lys. By no means. 

Euph. By a parity of reason, should it not follow that the ten- 
dency of religious doctrines ought to be judged of by the effects 
which they produce, not upon all who hear them, but upon those 
only who receive or believe them ? 

Lys. It seems so. 

Euph. Therefore, to proceed fairly, shall we not judge of the 
effects of religion by the religious, of faith by believers, of Chris- 
tianity by Christians ? 

8. Lys. But I doubt these sincere believers are very few. 

Euph. But will it not suffice to justify our principles, if, in 
proportion to the numbers which receive them, and the degree of 
faith with which they are received, they produce good effects? 
Perhaps the number of believers are not so few as you imagine ; 
and if they were, whose fault is that so much as of those who 
make it their professed endeavour to lessen that number? And 
who are those but the minute philosophers ? 

Lys. I tell you it is owing to the clergy themselves, to the 
wickedness and corruption of clergymen. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 181 

Euph. And who denies but there may be minute philosophers 
even among the clergy ? 

Cri. In so numerous a body it is to be presumed there are men 
of all sorts. But, notwithstanding the cruel reproaches cast upon 
that order by their enemies, an equal observer of men and things 
will, if I mistake not, be inclined to think those reproaches owing 
as much to other faults as those of the clergy j especially if he 
considers the declamatory manner of those who censure them. 

'Euph. My knowledge of the world is too narrow for me to 
pretend to judge of the virtue, and merit, and liberal attainments of 
men in the several professions. Besides, I should not care for the 
odious work of comparison. But I may venture to say the clergy 
of this country where I live are by no means a disgrace to it j on 
the contrary, the people seem much the better for their example 
and doctrine. But supposing the clergy to be (what all men 
certainly are) sinners and faulty j supposing you might spy out 
here and there among them even great crimes and vices, what can 
you conclude against the profession itself from its unworthy pro- 
fessors, any more than from the pride, pedantry, and bad lives of 
some philosophers against philosophy, or of lawyers against 

9. It is certainly right to judge of principles from their effects ; 
but then we must know them to be effects of those principles. It 
is the very method I have observed with respect to religion and 
the minute philosophy. And I can honestly aver that I never 
knew any man or family grow worse in proportion as they grew 
religious : but I have often observed that minute philosophy is the 
worst thing that can get into a family, the readiest way to im- 
poverish, divide, and disgrace it. 

Ale. By the same method of tracing causes from their effects, 
I have made it my observation that the love of truth, virtue, and 
the happiness of mankind are specious pretexts, but not the 
inward principles that set divines at work : else why should they 
affect to abuse human reason, to disparage natural religion, to 
traduce the philosophers, as they universally do ? 

Crt. Not so universally perhaps as you imagine. A Christian, 
indeed, is for confining reason within its due bounds; and so 
is every reasonable man. If we are forbid meddling with un- 

1 82 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

profitable questions, vain philosophy, and science falsely so called, 
it cannot be thence inferred that all inquiries into profitable 
questions, useful philosophy, and true science are unlawful. A 
minute philosopher may indeed impute, and perhaps a weak 
brother may imagine, those inferences, but men of sense will 
never make them. God is the common father of lights; and 
all knowledge really such, whether natural or revealed, is derived 
from the same source of light and truth. To amass together 
authorities upon so plain a point would be needless. It must be 
owned some men's attributing too much to human reason hath, 
as is natural, made others attribute too little to it. But thus 
much is generally acknowledged that there is a natural religion, 
which may be discovered and proved by the light of reason, to 
those who are capable of such proofs. But it must be withal 
acknowledged that precepts and oracles from heaven are incom- 
parably better suited to popular improvement and the good of 
society than the reasonings of philosophers; and, accordingly, 
we do not find that natural or rational religion, as such, ever 
became the popular national religion of any country. 

10. Ale. It cannot be denied that in all heathen countries 
there have been received, under the colour of religion, a world 
of fables and superstitious rites. But I question whether they 
were so absurd and of so bad influence as is vulgarly represented, 
since their respective legislators and magistrates must, without 
doubt, have thought them useful. 

Cri. It were needless to inquire into all the rites and notions 
of the Gentile world. This hath been largely done when it was 
thought necessary. And whoever thinks it worth while may 
be easily satisfied about them. But as to the tendency and use- 
fulness of the heathen religion in general, I beg leave to mention 
a remark of St. Augustine's *7, who observes that the heathens 
in their religion had no assemblies for preaching, wherein the 
people were to be instructed what duties or virtues the gods 
required, no place or means to be taught what Persius^ exhorts 
them to learn : 

Disciteque 6 miseri, et causas cognoscite rerum, 
Quid sumus, ct quidnam victuri gignimur. 

17 [De Civilate Dei, lib. II.] AUTHOR. 18 [Sat. HI.] AUTHOR. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 183 

Ale. This is the true spirit of the party, never to allow a grain 
of use or goodness to anything out of their own pale ; but 
we have had learned men who have done justice to the religion 
of the Gentiles. 

Cri. We do not deny but there was something useful in the 
old religions of Rome and Greece, and some other pagan coun- 
tries. On the contrary, we freely own they produced some good 
effects on the people. But then these good effects were owing 
to the truths contained in those false religions : the truer therefore 
the more useful. I believe you will find it a hard matter to 
produce any useful truth, any moral precept*, any salutary principle 
or notion, in any Gentile system, either of religion or philosophy, 
which is not comprehended in the Christian, and either enforced 
by stronger motives, or supported by better authority, or carried 
to a higher point of perfection. 

ii. Ah. Consequently you would have us think ourselves a 
finer people than the ancient Greeks or Romans. 

Cri. If by finer you mean better, perhaps we are ; and if we are not, 
it is not owing to the Christian religion, but to the want of it. 

Ale. You say c perhaps we are/ I do not pique myself on my 
reading: but should be very ignorant to be capable of being 
imposed on in so plain a point. What! compare Cicero or 
Brutus to an English patriot, or Seneca to one of our parsons! 
Then that invincible constancy and vigour of mind, that dis- 
interested and noble virtue, that adorable public spirit you so 
much admire, are things in them so well known, and so different 
from our manners, that I know not how to excuse your perhaps. 
Euphranor, indeed, who passeth his life in this obscure corner, 
may possibly mistake the characters of our times, but you who 
know the world, how could you be guilty of such a mistake ? 

Cri. O Alciphron, I would by no means detract from the noble 
virtue of ancient heroes. But I observe those great men were 
not the minute philosophers of their times ; that the best prin- 
ciples upon which they acted are common to them with Christians, 
of whom it would be no difficult matter to assign, if not in our own 
times, yet within the compass of our own history, many instances 
in every kind of worth and virtue, public or private, equal to 
the most celebrated of the ancients. Though perhaps their story 

184 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

might not have been so well told, set off with such fine lights 
and colourings of style, or so vulgarly known and considered 
by every schoolboy. But though it should be granted that here 
and there a Greek or Roman genius, bred up under strict laws 
and severe discipline, animated to public virtue by statues, 
crowns, triumphal arches, and such rewards and monuments of 
great actions, might attain to a character and fame beyond other 
men ; yet this will prove only that they had more spirit, and lived 
under a civil polity more wisely ordered in certain points than 
ours; which advantages of nature and civil institution will be 
no argument for their religion, or against ours. On the contrary, 
it seems an invincible proof of the power and excellency of 
the Christian religion that, without the help of those civil in- 
stitutions and incentives to glory, it should be able to inspire 
a phlegmatic people with the noblest sentiments, and soften the 
rugged manners of northern boors into gentleness and humanity 19 ; 
and that these good qualities should become national, and rise 
and fall in proportion to the purity of our religion, as it ap- 
proaches to, or recedes from, the plan laid down in the gospel. 

12. To make a right judgment of the effects of the Christian 
religion, let us take a survey of the prevailing notions and man- 
ners of this very country where we live, and compare them with 
those of our heathen predecessors. 

Ale. I have heard much of the glorious light of the gospel, and 
should be glad to see some effects of it in my own dear country, 
which, by the bye, is one of the most corrupt and profligate upon 
earth, notwithstanding the boasted purity of our religion. But 
it would look mean and diffident to affect a comparison with 
the barbarous heathen from whence we drew our original. If 
you would do honour to your religion, dare to make it with 
the most renowned heathens of antiquity. 

Cr/. It is a common prejudice to despise the present, and over- 
rate remote times and things. Something of this seems to enter 
into the judgments men make of the Greeks and Romans. For, 
though it must be allowed those nations produced some noble 
spirits, and great patterns of virtue, yet, upon the whole, it.. seems 

19 Cf. sect. 14, 23; also Dial. II. 17, III. 12. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 185 

to me they were much inferior, in point of real virtue and good 
morals, even to this corrupt and profligate nation, as you are 
now pleased to call it in dishonour to our religion ; howevdr 
you may think fit to characterize it when you would do honour 
to the minute philosophy. This, I think, will be plain to any one 
who shall turn off his eyes from a few shining characters, to 
view the general manners and customs of those people. Their 
insolent treatment of captives, even of the highest rank and 
softer sex, their unnatural exposing of their own children, their 
bloody gladiatorian spectacles, compared with the common notions 
of Englishmen, are to me a plain proof that our minds are much 
softened by Christianity. Could anything be more unjust than 
the condemning a young lady to the most infamous punishment 
^nd death for the guilt of her father, or a whole family of slaves, 
perhaps some hundreds, for a crime committed by one ? Or more 
abominable than their bacchanals and unbridled lusts of every 
kind ? which, notwithstanding all that has been done by minute 
philosophers to debauch the nation, and their successful attempts 
on some parts of it, have not yet been matched among us, at least 
not in every circumstance of impudence and effrontery. While 
the Romans were poor they were temperate j but, as they grew 
rich, they became luxurious to a degree that is hardly believed or 
conceived by us. It cannot be denied the old Roman spirit 
was a great one. But it is as certain there have been numberless 
examples of the most resolute and clear courage in Britons, and 
in general from a religious cause. Upon the whole, it seems 
an instance of the greatest blindness and ingratitude that we 
do not see and own the exceeding great benefits of Christianity, 
which, to omit higher considerations, hath so visibly softened, 
polished, and embellished our manners. 

13. Ale. O Crito! we are alarmed at cruelty in a foreign shape, 
but overlook it in a familiar one. Else how is it possible that 
you should not see the inhumanity of that barbarous custom of 
duelling, a thing avowed, and tolerated, and even reputable among 
us ? Or that, seeing this, you should suppose our Englishmen of a 
more gentle disposition than the old Romans, who were altogether 
strangers to it ? 

Cri. I will by no means make an apology for every Goth that 

1 86 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

walks the streets, with a determined purpose to murder any man 
who shall but spit in his face, or give him the lie. Nor do I think 
the Christian religion is in the least answerable for a practice so 
directly opposite to its precepts, and which obtains only among the 
idle part of the nation, your men of fashion ; who, instead of law, 
reason, or religion, are governed by fashion. Be pleased to con- 
sider that what may be, and truly is, a most scandalous reproach 
to a Christian country, may be none at all to the Christian reli- 
gion: for the Pagan encouraged men in several vices, but the 
Christian in none. 

Ale. Give me leave to observe that what you now say is foreign 
to the purpose. For, the question, at present, is not concerning 
the respective tendencies of the Pagan and the Christian religions, 
but concerning our manners, as actually compared with those of 
ancient heathens, who, I aver, had no such barbarous custom as 

Cri. And I aver that, bad as this is, they had a worse: and 
that was poisoning. By which we have reason to think there 
were many more lives destroyed than by this Gothic crime of 
duelling : inasmuch as it extended to all ages, sexes, and characters, 
and as its effects were more secret and unavoidable ; and as it had 
more temptations, interest as well as passion, to recommend it to 
wicked men. And for the fact, not to waste time> I refer you to 
the Roman authors themselves. 

Lys. It is very true. Duelling is not so general a nuisance as 
poisoning, nor of so base a nature. This crime, if it be a crime, 
is in a fair way to keep its ground in spite of the law and the 
gospel. The clergy never preach against it, because themselves 
never suffer by it : and the man of honour must not appear against 
the means of vindicating honour. 

Cri. Though it be remarked by some of your sect, that the 
clergy are not used to preach against duelling, yet I neither think 
the remark itself just, nor the reason assigned for it. In effect, one 
half of their sermons, all that is said of charity, brotherly love, 
forbearance, meekness, and forgiving injuries, is directly against 
this wicked custom; by which the clergy themselves are so far 
from never suffering, that perhaps they will be found, all things 
considered, to suffer oftener than other men. 

Lys. How do you make this appear ? 

The Fifth Dialogue. 187 

Cn. An observer of mankind may remark two kinds of bully, 
the fighting and the tame, both public nuisances , the former (who 
is the more dangerous animal, but by much the less common of the 
two) employs himself wholly and solely against the laity, while the 
tame species exert their talents upon the clergy. The qualities 
constituent of this tame bully are natural rudeness joined with a 
delicate sense of danger. For, you must know, the force of 
inbred insolence and ill manners is not diminished, though it 
acquire a new determination, from the fashionable custom of 
calling men to account for their behaviour. Hence you may 
often see one of these tame bullies ready to burst with pride and 
ill-humour, which he dares not vent, till a parson has come in the 
way to his relief. And the man of raillery, who would as soon bite 
off his tongue as break a jest on the profession of arms in the 
presence of a military man, shall instantly brighten up, and assume 
a familiar air with religion and the church before ecclesiastics. 
Dorcon, who passeth for a poltroon and stupid in all other com- 
pany, and really is so, when he is got among clergymen affects a 
quite opposite character. And many Dorcons there are, who owe 
their wit and courage to this passive order. 

14. Ale. But to return to the point in hand, can you deny the 
old Romans were as famous for justice and integrity as men in 
these days for the contrary qualities ? 

Crl. The character of the Romans is not to be taken from the 
sentiments of Tully, or Cato's actions, or a shining passage here 
and there in their history, but from the prevailing tenor of their 
lives and notions. Now, if they and our modern Britons were 
weighed in this same equal balance, you will, if I mistake not, 
appear to have been prejudiced in favour of the old Romans 
against your own country probably because it professeth Chris- 
tianity. Whatever instances of fraud or injustice may be seen 
in Christians carry their own censure with them, in the care that 
is taken to conceal them, and the shame that attends their dis- 
covery. There is, even at this day, a sort of modesty in all our 
public councils and deliberations. And I believe the boldest of 
our minute philosophers would hardly undertake, in a popular 
assembly, to propose anything parallel to the rape of the Sabines, 
the most unjust usage of Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, or the 

1 88 A lap /iron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

ungrateful treatment of Camillas; which, as a learned father 
observes, were instances of iniquity agreed to by the public body 
of the Romans. And if Rome in her early days were capable of 
such flagrant injustice, it is most certain she did not mend her 
manners as she grew great in wealth and empire, having produced 
monsters in every kind of wickedness, as far exceeding other men 
as they surpassed them in power. I freely acknowledge the Chris- 
tian religion hath not had the same influence upon the nation 
that it would in case it had been always professed in its purity, 
and cordially believed by all men. But I will venture to say that 
if you take the Roman history from one end to the other, and 
impartially compare it with your own, you will neither find them 
so good, nor your countrymen so bad, as you imagine. On the 
contrary, an indifferent eye may, I verily think, perceive a vein of 
charity and justice, the effect of Christian principles, run through 
the latter; which, though not equally discernible in all parts, yet 
discloseth itself sufficiently to make a wide difference upon the 
whole, in spite of the general appetites and passions of human 
nature, as well as of the particular hardness and roughness of the 
block out of which we were hewn ' 20 . And it is observable (what 
the Roman authors themselves do often suggest) that even their 
virtues and magnanimous actions rose and fell with a sense of 
Providence and a future state, and a philosophy the nearest to the 
Christian religion. 

15. Crito having spoke thus paused. 

But Alciphron, addressing himself to Euphranor and me, said 
It is natural for men, according to their several educations and 
prejudices, to form contrary judgments upon the same things, 
which they view in very different lights. Crito, for instance, 
imagines that none but salutary effects proceed from religion : on 
the other hand, if you appeal to the general experience and 
observation of other men, you shall find it grown into a proverb 
that religion is the root of evil : 

Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum. 

And this not only among Epicureans or other ancient heathens, 
but among moderns speaking of the Christian religion. Now, 

20 Cf. sect, ii, 23. 

. The Fifth Dialogue. 189 

methinks it is unreasonable to oppose against the general con- 
curring opinion of the world, the observation of a particular 
person, or particular set of zealots, whose prejudice sticks close to 
them, and ever mixeth with their judgment; and who read, 
collect, and observe with an eye not to discover the truth, but to 
defend their prejudice. 

Cri. Though I cannot think with Alciphron, yet I must own I 
admire his address and dexterity in argument. Popular and 
general opinion is by him represented, on certain occasions, to be 
a sure mark of error. But when it serves his ends that it should 
seem otherwise, he can as easily make it a character of truth. 
But it will by no means follow that a profane proverb, used by the 
friends and admired authors of a minute philosopher, must there- 
fore be a received opinion, much less a truth grounded on the 
experience and observation of mankind. Sadness may spring 
from guilt or superstition, and rage from bigotry; but darkness 
might as well be supposed the natural effect of sunshine, as sullen 
and furious passions to proceed from the glad tidings and Divine 
precepts of the gospel. What is the sum and substance, scope and 
end of Christ's religion, but the love of God and man ? To which 
all other points and duties are relative and subordinate, as parts 
or means, as signs, principles, motives, or effects. Now, I would 
fain know how it is possible for evil or wickedness of any kind to 
spring from such a source ? I will not pretend there are no evil 
qualities in Christians, nor good in minute philosophers. But this 
I affirm, that, whatever evil is in us, our principles certainly lead 
to good; and, whatever good there may be in you, it is most 
certain your principles lead to evil' 21 . 

1 6. Ale. It must be owned there is a fair outside, and many 
plausible things may be said for the Christian religion taken 
simply as it lies in the gospel. But it is the observation of one of 
our great writers 22 , that the first Christian preachers very cunningly 
began with the fairest face and the best moral doctrines in the 
world. It was all love, charity, meekness, patience, and so forth. 
But when by this means they had drawn over the world and got 
power, they soon changed their appearance, and shewed cruelty, 
ambition, avarice, and every bad quality. 

21 Cf. sect. 6, 20. w See Shaftesbury's Characteristics, vol. III. pp. 114, 115. 

190 Akiphron y or the Minute Philosopher: 

Cr/. That is to say, some men very cunningly preached and 
underwent a world of hardships, and laid down their lives to 
propagate the best principles and the best morals, to the end that 
others some centuries after might reap the benefit of bad ones. 
Whoever may be cunning, there is not much cunning in the maker 
of this observation. 

Ale. And yet ever since this religion hath appeared in the 
world we have had eternal feuds, factions, massacres, and wars, 
the very reverse of that hymn with which it is introduced in the 
gospel: c Glory be to God on high, on earth peace, good-will 
towards men/ 

Cr/'. This I will not deny. I will even own that the Gospel and 
the Christian religion have been often the pretexts for these evils ; 
but it will not thence follow they were the cause. On the con- 
trary, it is plain they could not be the real proper cause of these 
evils ; because a rebellious, proud, revengeful, quarrelsome spirit is 
directly opposite to the whole tenor and most express precepts of 
Christianity: a point so clear that I shall not prove it. And, 
secondly, because all those evils you mention were as frequent, 
nay, much more frequent, before the Christian religion was known 
in the world. They are the common product of the passions and 
vices of mankind, which are sometimes covered with the mask of 
religion by wicked men, having the form of godliness without the 
power of it. This truth seems so plain that I am surprised how 
any mafi of sense, knowledge, and candour can make a doubt of it. 

17. Take but a view of heathen Rome : what a scene is there 
of faction, and fury, and civil rage ! Let any man consider the 
perpetual feuds between the patricians and plebeians, the bloody 
and inhuman factions of Marius and Sylla, Cinna and Octavius, 
and the vast havoc of mankind, during the two famous trium- 
virates. To be short, let any man of common candour and 
common sense but cast an eye from one end to the other of 
the Roman story, and behold that long scene of seditions, mur- 
ders, massacres, proscriptions, and desolations of every kind, 
enhanced by every cruel circumstance of rage, rapine, and revenge ; 
and then say, whether those evils were introduced into the world 
with the Christian religion, or whether they are not less frequent- 
now than before ? 

The Fifth Dialogue. 191 

Ale. The ancient Romans, it must be owned, had a high and 
fierce spirit, which produced eager contentions and very bloody 
catastrophes. The Greeks, on the other hand, were a polite and 
gentle sort of men, softened by arts and philosophy. It is im- 
possible to think of the little states and cities of Greece without 
wishing to have lived in those times, without admiring their 
policy, and envying their happiness. 

Cr/. Men are apt to consider the dark sides of what they possess, 
and the bright ones of things out of their reach. A fine climate, 
elegant taste, polite amusements, love of liberty, and a most 
ingenious inventive spirit for arts and sciences were indisputable 
prerogatives of ancient Greece. But, as for peace and quietness, 
gentleness and humanity, I think we have plainly the advantage : 
for those envied cities composed of gentle Greeks were not with- 
out their factions, which persecuted each other with such treachery, 
rage, and malice that in respect of them our factious folk are 
mere lambs. To be convinced of this truth, you need only look 
into Thucydides 2;3 , where you will find those cities in general 
involved in such bitter factions as for fellow-citizens without the 
formalities of war to murder one another, even in their senate- 
houses and their temples; no regard being had to merit, rank, 
obligation, or nearness of blood. And if human nature boiled up 
to so vehement a pitch in the politest people, what wonder that 
savage nations Should scalp, roast, torture, and destroy each other, 
as they are known to do? It is therefore plain that without 
religion there would not be wanting pretexts for quarrels and 
debates; all which can very easily be accounted for by the 
natural infirmities and corruption of men. It would not perhaps 
be so easy to account for the blindness of those who impute 
the most hellish effects to the most Divine principle, if they could 
be supposed in earnest and to have considered the point. One 
may daily see ignorant and prejudiced men make the most absurd 
blunders. But that free-thinkers, divers to the bottom of things, 
fair inquirers, and openers of eyes, should be capable of such 
a gross mistake is what one would not expect. 

18. Ale. The rest of mankind we could more easily give up: 

23 [Thucyd. lib. III.] AUTHOR. 

192 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

but as for the Greeks, men of the most refined genius express 
a high esteem of them ; not only on account of those qualities 
which you think fit to allow them, but also for their virtues. 

Cri. I shall not take upon me to say how far some men may 
be prejudiced against their country, or whether others may not 
be prejudiced in favour of it. But, upon the fullest and most 
equal observation that I am able to make, it is my opinion 
that, if by virtue is meant truth, justice, gratitude, there is 
incomparably more virtue now at this day in England than 
at any time could be found in ancient Greece. Thus much will 
be allowed that we know few countries, if any, where men 
of eminent worth, and famous for deserving well of the publ ; c, 
met with harder fate, and were more ungratefully treated than 
in the most polite and learned of the Grecian states 21 . Though 
Socrates, it must be owned, would not allow that those statesmen, 
by adorning the city, augmenting the fleet, or extending the 
commerce of Athens, deserved well of their country; or could 
with justice complain of the ungrateful returns made by their 
fellow-citixens, whom, while they were in power, they had taken 
no care to make better men, by improving and cultivating their 
minds with the principles of virtue, which if they had done, they 
needed not to have feared their ingratitude. If I were to declare 
my opinion, what gave the chief advantage to Greeks and Romans 
and other nations which have made the greatest figure in the 
world, I should be apt to think it was a peculiar reverence for 
their respective laws and institutions, which inspired them with 
steadiness and courage, and that hearty generous love of their 
country: by which they did not merely understand a certain 
language or tribe of men, much less a particular spot of earth, 
but included a certain system of manners, customs, notions, rites, 
and laws, civil and religious. 

Ale, Oh! I perceive your drift: you would have us reverence 
the laws and religious institutions of our country. But herein we 
beg to be excused, if we do not think fit to imitate the Greeks, or 
to be governed by any authority whatsoever. 

p 5 Cri. So far from it. If Mahometanism were established by 
authority, I make no doubt those very free-thinkers, who at present 

34 Cicero, De Repub. I. 3. 

25 Added in second edition, and afterwards omitted. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 193 

applaud Turkish maxims and manners to that degree you would 
think them ready to turn Turks, would then be the first to exclaim 
against them.] 

Ale. But to return : as for wars and factions, I grant they ever 
were, and ever will be in the world, upon some pretext or other, 
as long as men are men. 

19. But there is a sort of war and warriors peculiar to Christen- 
dom which the heathens had no notion of: I mean disputes in 
theology, and polemical divines, which the wprld hath been wonder- 
fully pestered with: these teachers of peace, meekness, concord, 
and what not ! if you take their word for it : but, if you cast 
an eye upon their practice, you find them to have been in all ages 
the most contentious, quarrelsome, disagreeing crew, that ever 
appeared upon earth. To observe the skill and sophistry, the 
zeal and eagerness, with which those barbarians, the school- 
divines, split hairs and contest about chimeras, gives me more 
indignation, as being more absurd and a greater scandal to human 
reason, than all the ambitious intrigues, cabals, and politics of 
the court of Rome. 

Cri. If divines are quarrelsome, that is not so far forth- as divine, 
but as undivine and unchristian. Justice is a good thing; and 
the art of healing is excellent ; nevertheless, in the administering 
of justice or physic, men may be wronged or poisoned. But as 
wrong cannot be justice, or the effect of justice, so poison cannot 
be medicine, or the effect of medicine; so neither can pride or 
strife be religion, or the effect of religion. Having premised this, 
I acknowledge you may often see hot-headed bigots engage them- 
selves in religious as well as civil parties, without being of 
credit or service to either. And as for the Schoolmen in particular, 
I do not in the least think the Christian religion concerned in 
the defence of them, their tenets, or their method of handling 
them: but, whatever futility there may be in their notions, or 
inelegancy in their language, in pure justice to truth one must 
own they neither banter nor rail nor declaim in their writings, 
and are so far from shewing fury or passion that perhaps an 
impartial judge will think the minute philosophers are by no 
means to be compared with them, for keeping close to the point, 
or for temper and good manners. But, after all, if men are 

VOL. n. o 

ip4 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

puzzled, wrangle, talk nonsense, and quarrel about religion, so 
they do about law, physic, politics, and everything else of moment. 
I ask whether, in these professions, or in any other where men 
have refined and abstracted, they do not run into disputes, chicane, 
nonsense, and contradictions, as well as in divinity? And yet 
this doth not hinder but there may be many excellent rules, and 
just notions, and useful truths, in all those professions. In all 
disputes human passions too often mix themselves, in proportion 
as the subject is conceived to be more or less important. But we 
ought not to confound, the cause of man with the cause of God, or 
make human follies an objection to Divine truths. It is easy to 
distinguish what looks like wisdom from above, and what proceeds 
from the passion and weakness of men. This is so clear a point, 
that one would be tempted to think the not doing it was an 
effect, not of ignorance, but of something worse. 

20. The conduct we object to minute philosophers is a natural 
consequence of their principles. Whatsoever they can reproach 
us with is an effect, not of our principles, but of human passion 
and frailty 26 . 

Ale. This is admirable. So we must no longer object to Chris- 
tians the absurd contentions of Councils, the cruelty of Inquisitions, 
the ambition and usurpation of churchmen w ? 

Cri. You may object them to Christians, but not to Christianity. 
If the Divine Author of our religion and His disciples have sowed 
a good seed ; and, together with this good seed, the enemies of His 
gospel (among whom are to be reckoned the minute philosophers 
of all ages) have sowed bad seeds, whence spring tares and 
thistles j is it not evident, these bad weeds cannot be imputed to 
the good seed, or to those who sowed it ? Whatever you do or can 
object against ecclesiastical tyranny, usurpation, or sophistry, may, 
without any blemish or disadvantage to religion, be acknowledged 
by all true Christians ; provided still that you impute those wicked 
effects to their true cause, not blaming any principles or persons 
for them but those that really produce or justify them. Certainly, 
as the interests of Christianity are not to be supported by un- 
christian methods, whenever these are made use of, it must be 

88 Of. sect. 6, 15. * Cf. Dial. I. sect. 3. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 195 

supposed there is some other latent principle which sets them at 
work. If the very court of Rome hath been known, from motives 
of policy, to oppose settling the Inquisition in a kingdom where 
the secular power hath endeavoured to introduce it in spite of that 
court 28 ; we may well suppose that, elsewhere, factions of state and 
political views of princes have given birth to transactions seem- 
ingly religious, wherein at bottom neither religion, nor church, 
nor churchmen, were at all considered. As no man of common 
sense and honesty will engage in a general defence of ecclesiastics, 
so 1 think no man of common candour can condemn them in 
general. Would you think it reasonable to blame all statesmen, 
lawyers, or soldiers for the faults committed by those of their pro- 
fession ; though in other times, or in other countries, and influenced 
by other maxims and other discipline ? And if not, why do you 
measure with one rule to the clergy, and another to the laity? 
Surely the best reason that can be given for this is prejudice. 
Should any man rake together all the mischiefs that have been 
committed in all ages and nations by soldiers and lawyers, you 
would, I suppose, conclude from thence, not that the state should 
be deprived of those useful professions, but only that their 
exorbitances should be guarded against and punished. If you took 
the same equitable course with the clergy, there would indeed be 
less to be said against you ; but then you would have much less to 
say. This plain obvious consideration, if every one who read con- 
sidered, would lessen the credit of your declaimers. 

Ale. But when all is said that can be said, it must move a man's 
indignation to see reasonable creatures, under the notion of study 
and learning, employed in reading and writing so many voluminous 
tracts de land cafrind. * 

Cri. I shall not undertake the vindication of theological writings, 
a general defence being as needless as a general charge is ground- 
less. Only let them speak for themselves ; and let no man con- 
demn them upon the word of a minute philosopher. But we will 
imagine the very worst, and suppose a wrangling pedant in 
divinity disputes, and ruminates, and writes upon a refined point, 
as useless and unintelligible as you please. Suppose this same 
person bred a laymen, might he not have employed himself in 

28 [P. Paolo, Istoria del? Inquisitione, p. 42.] AUTHOR. 
O 2 

196 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

tricking bargains, vexatious law-suits, factions, seditions, and 
such like amusements, with much more prejudice to the public? 
Suffer then curious wits to spin cobwebs : where is the hurt ? 

Ale. The mischief is, what men want in light they commonly 
make up in heat: z,eal and ill-nature, being weapons constantly 
exerted by the partisans, as well as champions, on either side ; and 
those perhaps not mean pedants or book-worms. You shall often 
see even the learned and eminent divine lay himself out in ex- 
plaining things inexplicable, or contend for a barren point of 
theory, as if his life, liberty, or fortune were at stake. 

Cri. No doubt all points in divinity are not of equal moment. 
Some may be too finely spun, and others have more stress laid on 
them than they deserve. Be the subject what it will, you shall 
often observe that a point, by being controverted, singled out, 
examined, and nearly inspected, groweth considerable to the same 
eye that, perhaps, would have overlooked it in a large and com- 
prehensive view. Nor is it an uncommon thing to behold 
ignorance and fceal united in men who are born with a spirit of 
party, though the church or religion have in truth but small share 
in it. Nothing is easier than to make a caricatura (as the painters 
call it) of any profession upon earth : but, at bottom, there will be 
found nothing so strange in all this charge upon the clergy, as the 
partiality of those who censure them, in supposing the common 
defects of mankind peculiar to their order, or the effect of religious 

Ale. Other folks may dispute or squabble as they please, and 
nobody mind them ; but, it seems, these venerable squabbles of the 
clergy pass for learning, and interest mankind. To use the words 
of the most ingenious Characterizer of our times : c A ring is made, 
and readers gather in abundance. Every one takes party and 
encourages his own side. "This shall be my champion ! This man 
for my money ! Well hit, on our side ! Again, a good stroke ! 
There he was even with him ! Have at him the next bout ! 
Excellent sport **\>" 

Cn. Methinks I trace the man of quality and breeding in this 
delicate satire, which so politely ridicules those arguments, answers, 
defences, and replications which the press groans under. 

29 [Characteristics, vol. III. c. 2.] AUTHOR. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 197 

Ale. To the infinite waste of time and paper, and all the while 
nobody is one whit the wiser. And who indeed can be the wiser 
for reading books upon subjects quite out of the way, incompre- 
hensible, and most wretchedly written? What man of sense or 
breeding would not abhor the infection of prolix pulpit eloquence ; 
or of that dry, formal, pedantic, stiff, and clumsy style, which 
smells of the lamp and the college ? 

31. They who have the weakness to reverence the universities 
as seats of learning must needs think this a strange reproach ; but 
it is a very just one. For the most ingenious men are now 
agreed, that they are only the nurseries of prejudice, corruption, 
barbarism, and pedantry. 

Lys. For my part, I find no fault with universities. All I know 
is that I had the spending of three hundred pounds a year in one 
of them, and think it the cheerfullest time of my life. As for their 
books and style, I had not leisure to mind them. 

Cri. Whoever hath a mind to weed will never want work ; and 
he that shall pick out bad books on every subject will soon fill his 
library. I do not know what theological writings Alciphron and 
his friends may be conversant in ; but, I will venture to say, one 
may find among our English divines many writers who, for com- 
pass of learning, weight of matter, strength of argument, and 
purity of style ^are not inferior to any in our language. It is not 
my design to apologise for the universities : whatever is amiss in 
them (and what is there perfect among men ?) I heartily wish 
amended. But I dare affirm, because I know it to be true, that 
any impartial observer, although they should not come up to what 
in theory he might wish or imagine, will nevertheless find them 
much superior to those that in fact are to be found in other 
countries, and far beyond the mean picture that is drawn of them 
by minute philosophers. It is natural for those to rail most at 
places of education who have profited least by them. Weak and 
fond parents will also readily impute to a wrong cause those cor- 
ruptions themselves have occasioned, by allowing their children 
more money than they know how to spend innocently. And too 
often a gentleman who has been idle at the college, and kept idle 
company, will judge of a whole university from his own cabal. 

Ale. Crito mistakes the point. I vouch the authority, not of a 

Alciphron^ or the Minute Philosopher: 

dunce, or a rake, or absurd parent, but of the most consummate critic 
this age has produced. This great man characterifceth men of the 
church and universities with the finest touches and most masterly 
pencil. What do you think he calls them ? 

Eufh. What? 

Ale. Why, the black tribe, magicians, formalists, pedants, 
bearded boys ; and having sufficiently derided and exploded them, 
and their mean, ungenteel learning, he sets most admirable models 
of his own for good writing : and it must be acknowledged they are 
the finest things in our language ; as I could easily convince you, 
for I am never without something of that noble writer about me. 

Euph. He is then a noble writer ? 

Ale. I tell you he is a nobleman. 

Eufh. But a nobleman who writes is one thing, and a noble 
writer another. 

Ale. Both characters are coincident, as you may see. 

22. Upon which Alciphron pulled a treatise out of his pocket, 
entitled A Soliloquy, or Advice to an Author. Would you behold, 
said he, looking round upon the company, a noble specimen of 
fine writing? do but dip into this book: which Crito opening, 
read verbatim as follows 31 : 

'Where then are the pleasures which ambition promises, 
And love affords? How's the gay world enjoy'd ? 
Or are those to be esteem'd no pleasures 
Which are lost by dulness and inaction? 
But indolence is the highest pleasure. 
To live, and not to feel ! To feel no trouble. 
What good then? Life itself. And is 
This properly to live ? Is sleeping, life ? 
Is this what I should study to prolong? 
Here the 

Fantastic tribe itself seems scandalized. 
A civil war begins: the major part 
Of the capricious dames do range themselves 
On reason's side, 

And declare against the languid Siren. 
Ambition blushes at the offered sweet. 
Conceit and Vanity take superior airs. 

80 See Characteristics, vol. I. pp. 64, 333 Characteristics, vol. I. pp. 318 320. The 
335. Soliloquy appeared in 1710. 

31 [Part III. sect. 2.] AUTHOR. See 

The Fifth Dialogue. 199 

Ev'n Luxury herself, in her polite 

And elegant humour, reproves th* apostate 


And marks her as an alien to true pleasure. 

Away, thou 

Drowsy phantom! haunt me no more; for I 

Have learn'd from better than thy sisterhood, 

That life and happiness consist in action 

And employment. 

But here a busy form solicits us 

Active, industrious, watchful, and despising 

Pains and labour. She wears the serious 

Countenance of Virtue, but with features 

Of anxiety and disquiet. 

What is 't she mutters ? What looks she on with 

Such admiration and astonishment? 

Bags ! coffers ! heaps of shining metal ! What 1 

For the service of Luxury? For her 

These preparations? Art thou then her friend, 

Grave Fancy? Is it for her thou toilest? 

No, but for provision against want. 

But, luxury apart, tell me now, 

Hast thou not already a competence? 

'Tis good to be secure against the fear 

Of starving. Is there then no death but this? 

No other passage out of life ? Are other doors 

Secured if this be barr'd? Say, Avarice! 

Thou emptiest of phantoms, is it not vile 

Cowardice thou serv'st? What further have I then 

To do with thee (thou doubly vile dependent) 

When once I have dismiss'd thy patroness, 

And despised her threats? 

Thus I contend with Fancy and Opinion.' 

Euphranor having heard thus far, cried out, What! will you 
never have done with your poetry ? another time may serve : but 
why should we break off" our conference to read a play ? 

You are mistaken, it is no play nor poetry, replied Alciphron, 
but a famous modern critic moralising in prose. You must know 
this great man hath (to use his own words) revealed a grand 
arcanum to the world, having instructed mankind in what he calls 
mirror-ivriting, self -discoursing practice, and author practice, and 
shewed 32 , that c by virtue of an intimate recess we may discover a 

23 See Characteristics, vol. I. p. 169; also pp. 171, 195, 199, 205. 

2OO AlcipkroHy or the Minute Philosopher: 

certain duplicity of soul, and divide our self into two parties/ or 
(as he varies the phrase) c practically form the dual number/ In 
consequence whereof, he hath found out that a man may argue 
with himself; and not only with himself, but also with notions, 
sentiments, and vices, which by a marvellous prosopopoeia he 
converts into so many ladies ; and so converted, he confutes and 
confounds them in a Divine strain. Can anything be finer, 
bolder, or more sublime ? 

Eufh. It is very wonderful. I thought, indeed, you had been 
reading a piece of tragedy. Is this he who despiseth our univer- 
sities, and sets up for reforming the style and tastes of the 

Ale. The very same. This is the admired critic of our times. 
Nothing can stand the test of his correct judgment, which is 
equally severe to poets and parsons. c The British Muses (saith 
this great man 33 ) lisp as in their cradles ; and their stammering 
tongues, which nothing but youth and rawness can excuse, have 
hitherto spoken in wretched pun and quibble. Our dramatic 
Shakespear, our Fletcher, Jonson, and our epic Milton, preserve 
this style/ And, according to him, even our later authors, c aiming 
at a false sublime, entertain our raw fancy and unpractised ear ; 
which has not yet had leisure to form itself, and become truly 

Eufh. Pray what effect may the lessons of this great man, in 
whose eyes our learned professors are but bearded boys 34 , and our 
most celebrated wits but wretched punsters, have had upon the 
public ? Hath he rubbed off the college rust, cured the rudeness 
and rawness of our authors, and reduced them to his own attic 
standard ? Do they aspire to his true sublime, or imitate his 
chaste unaffected style ? 

Ah. Doubtless the taste of the age is much mended : in proof 
whereof his writings are universally admired. When our author 
published this Treatise, he foresaw the public taste would improve 
apace ; that arts and letters would grow to great perfection ; that 
there would be a happy birth of genius : of all which things he 
spoke, as he saith himself, in a prophetic style. 

O/. And yet, notwithstanding the prophetical predictions of 
this critic, I do not find any science hath throve among us of late 

33 Characteristics, vol. I. p. 217. M Cf. sect. 21. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 201 

so much as the minute philosophy. In this kind, it must be con- 
fessed, we have had many notable productions. But whether they 
are such masterpieces for good writing, I leave to be determined 
by their readers. 

23. In the meantime, I must beg to be excused if I cannot 
believe your great man on his bare word ; when he would have us 
think that ignorance and ill-taste are owing to the Christian 
religion or the clergy, it being my sincere opinion that whatever 
learning or knowledge we have among us is derived from that 
order. If those who are so sagacious at discovering a mote in 
other eyes would but purge their own, I believe they might easily 
see this truth. For, what but religion could kindle and preserve a 
spirit towards learning in such a northern rough people 35 ? Greece 
produced men of active and subtile genius. The public con- 
ventions and emulations of their cities forwarded that genius; 
and their natural curiosity was amused and excited by learned 
conversation, in their public walks and gardens and porticos. 
Our genius leads to amusements of a grosser kind : we breathe 
a grosser and a colder air 35 ; and that curiosity which was general in 
Athenians, and the gratifying of which was their chief recreation, 
is among our people of fashion treated like affectation, and as 
such banished from polite assemblies and places of resort ; and 
without doubt would in a little time be banished the country, 
if it were not for the great reservoirs of learning, where those 
formalists, pedants, and bearded boys, as your profound critic 
calls them 36 , are maintained by the liberality and piety of our 
predecessors. For, it is as evident that religion was the cause of 
those seminaries as it is that they are the cause or source of 
all the learning and taste which are to be found, even in those 
very men who are the declared enemies of our religion and public 
foundations. Every one, who knows anything, knows we are 
indebted for our learning to the Greek and Latin tongues. This 
those severe censors will readily grant. Perhaps they may not be 
so ready to grant, what all men must see, that we are indebted 
for those tongues to our religion. What else could have made 
foreign and dead languages in such request among us? What 
could have kept in being and handed them down to our times, 

35 Cf. sect, ii, 14; also Dial. II. 17, III. 12. Cf. sect. 21. 

2O2 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

through so many dark ages in which the world was wasted and 
disfigured by wars and violence ? What, but a regard to the Holy 
Scriptures, and theological writings of the Fathers and Doctors of 
the Church ? And in fact, do we not find that the learning of 
those times was solely in the hands of Ecclesiastics ; that they 
alone lighted the lamp in succession one from another, and 
transmitted it down to after ages; and that ancient books were 
collected and preserved in their colleges and seminaries, when 
all love and remembrance of polite arts and studies was ex- 
tinguished among the laity, whose ambition entirely turned to 

24. Ale. There is, I must needs say, one sort of learning 
undoubtedly of Christian original, and peculiar to the uni- 
versities ; where our youth spend several years in acquiring that 
mysterious jargon of Scholasticism ; than which there could never 
have been contrived a more effectual method to perplex and 
confound human understanding. It is true, gentlemen are untaught 
by the world what they have been taught at the college : but then 
their time is doubly lost. 

Cn. But what if this scholastic learning was not of Christian 
but of Mahometan original, being derived from the Arabs ? And 
what if this grievance of gentlemen's spending several years in 
learning and unlearning this jargon be all grimace, and a 
specimen only of the truth and candour of certain minute philo- 
sophers, who raise great invectives from slight occasions, and 
judge too often without inquiring? Surely it would be no such 
deplorable loss of time, if a young gentleman spent a few months 
upon that so much despised and decried art of Logic, a surfeit 
of which is by no means the prevailing nuisance of this age. 
It is one thing to waste one's time in learning and unlearning 
the barbarous terms, wire-drawn distinctions, and prolix sophistry 
of the Schoolmen ; and another to attain some exactness in de- 
fining and arguing things perhaps not altogether beneath the 
dignity even of a minute philosopher. There was indeed a time 
when Logic was considered as its own object : and that art of 
reasoning, instead of being transferred to things, turned altogether 
upon words and abstractions; which produced a sort of leprosy 
in all parts of knowledge, corrupting and converting them into 

The Fifth Dialogue. 203 

hollow verbal disputations in a most impure dialect. But those 
times are past; and that, which had been cultivated as the 
principal learning for some ages, is now considered in another 
light ; and by no means makes that figure in the universities, or 
bears that part in the studies of young gentlemen educated there, 
which is pretended by those admirable reformers of religion and 
learning, the minute philosophers. 

25. But who were they that encouraged and produced the re- 
storation of arts and polite learning ? What share had the minute 
philosophers in this affair ? Matthias Corvinus king of Hungary, 
Alphonsus king of Naples, Cosmus de Medicis, Picus of Mirandula, 
and other princes, and great men, famous for learning themselves, 
and for encouraging it in others with a munificent liberality, 
were neither Turks, nor Gentiles, nor minute philosophers. Who 
was it that transplanted and revived the Greek language and 
authors, and with them all polite arts and literature, in the west ? 
Was it not chiefly Bessarion a cardinal, Marcus Musurus an 
archbishop, Theodore Gaza a private clergyman? Has there 
been a greater and more renowned patron and restorer of elegant 
studies in every kind, since the days of Augustus Caesar, than 
Leo the Tenth, pope of Rome ? Did any writers approach the 
purity of the classics nearer than the cardinals Bembus and Sado- 
letus, or than the bishops of Jovius and Vida ? Not to mention 
an endless number of ingenious Ecclesiastics, who flourished on the 
other side of the Alps in the golden age (as the Italians call it) of 
Leo the Tenth, and wrote, both in their own language and the 
Latin, after the best models of antiquity. It is true, this first 
recovery of learning preceded the Reformation, and lighted the 
way to it; but the religious controversies which ensued did 
wonderfully propagate and improve it in all parts of Christendom. 
And surely, the Church of England is at least as well calculated 
for the encouragement of learning as that of Rome. Experience 
confirms this observation ; and I believe the minute philosophers 
will not be so partial to Rome as to deny it. 

Ale. It is impossible your account of learning beyond the Alps 
should be true. The noble critic in my hands, having compli- 
mented the French, to whom he allows some good authors, asserts 3 ? 

37 Characteristics , vol. I. p. 35, note. 

204 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

of other foreigners, particularly the Italians, c That they may be 
reckoned no better than the corrupters of true learning and 

Cri. With some sorts of critics, dogmatical censures and con- 
clusions are not always the result of perfect knowledge or exact 
inquiry ; and if they harangue upon taste, truth of art, a just 
piece, grace of style, attic elegance, and such topics, they are to 
be understood only as those that would fain talk themselves into 
reputation for courage. To hear Thrasymachus speak of resent- 
ment, duels, and point of honour, one would think him ready to 
burst with valour. 

Lys. Whatever merit this writer may have as a demolisher, I 
always thought he had very little as a builder. It is natural for 
careless writers to run into faults they never think of; but for an 
exact and severe critic to shoot his bolt at random is unpardon- 
able. If he, who professes at every turn a high esteem for polite 
writing, should yet despise those who most excel in it; one would 
be tempted to suspect his taste. But if the very man who of all 
men talks most about art, and taste, and critical skill, and would 
be thought to have most considered those points, should often 
deviate from his own rules, into the false sublime, or the mauvaise 
plaisanterie what reasonable man would follow the taste and 
judgment of such a guide, or be seduced, or climb the steep ascent, 
or tread in the rugged paths of virtue on his recommendation ? 

26. Ale. But to return : methinks Crito makes no compliment 
to the genius of his country, in supposing that Englishmen might 
not have wrought out of themselves all art and science and good 
taste ; without being beholden to church or universities, or ancient 

Cr/. What might have been is only conjecture. What has 
been it is not difficult to know. That there is a vein in Britain, 
of as rich an ore as ever was in any country, I will not deny ; but 
it lies deep, and will cost pains to come at: and extraordinary 
pains require an extraordinary motive. As for what lies next the 
surface, it seems but indifferent, being neither so good nor in such 
plenty as in some other countries. It was the comparison of an 
ingenious Florentine, that the celebrated poems of Tasso and 
Ariosto are like two gardens, the one of cucumbers, the other of 

The Fifth Dialogue. 205 

melons. In the one you shall find few bad, but the best are not a 
very good fruit ; in the other much the greater part are good for 
nothing, but those that are good are excellent. Perhaps the same 
comparison may hold, between the English and some of their 

Ale. But suppose we should grant that the Christian religion 
and its seminaries might have been of use, in preserving or re- 
trieving polite arts and letters ; what then ? Will you make this 
an argument of its truth ? 

Cri. I will make it an argument of prejudice and ingratitude in 
those minute philosophers, who object darkness, ignorance, and 
rudeness as an effect of that very thing which above all others 
hath enlightened and civilized and embellished their country; 
which is as truly indebted to it for arts and sciences (which nothing 
but religion was ever known to have planted in such a latitude) as 
for that general sense of virtue and humanity, and belief of a Pro- 
vidence and future state, which all the argumentation of minute 
philosophers hath not yet been able to abolish. 

37. Ale. It is strange you should still persist to argue as if all 
the gentlemen of our sect were enemies to virtue, and downright 
atheists ; though I have assured you of the contrary, and that we 
have among us several who profess themselves in the interests of 
virtue and natural religion, and have also declared that I myself 
do now argue upon that foot. 

Cri. How can you pretend to be in the interests of natural 
religion, and yet be professed enemies of the Christian ; the only 
established religion which includes whatever is excellent in the 
natural, and which is the only means of making those precepts, 
duties, and notions, so called, become reverenced throughout the 
world ? Would not he be thought weak or insincere, who should 
go about to persuade people that he was much in the interests of 
an earthly monarch ; that he loved and admired his government ; 
when at the same time he shewed himself, on all occasions, a most 
bitter enemy of those very persons and methods which above all 
others contributed most to his service, and to make his dignity 
known and revered, his laws observed, or his dominion extended ? 
And is not this what minute philosophers do, while they set up 
for advocates of God and religion, and yet do all they can to 

206 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

discredit Christians and their worship ? It must be owned, indeed, 
that you argue against Christianity, as the cause of evil and 
wickedness in the world; but with such arguments and in such 
a manner as might equally prove the same thing of civil govern- 
ment, of meat and drink, of every faculty and profession, of 
learning, of eloquence, and even of human reason itself. After 
all, even those of your sect who allow themselves to be called 
Deists, if their notions are thoroughly examined, will I fear be 
found to include little of religion in them 38 . As for the Providence 
of God watching over the conduct of human agents, and dispensing 
blessings or chastisements, the immortality of the soul, a final 
judgment, and future state of rewards and punishments j how few, 
if any, of your free-thinkers have made it their endeavour to possess 
men's minds with a serious sense of those great points of natural 
religion ! How many, on the contrary, endeavour to render the 
belief of them doubtful or ridiculous! [ 39 It must be owned there 
may be found men that, without any regard to these points, make 
some pretence to religion : but who shall think them in earnest ? 
You shall sometimes see the very ringleaders of vice and pro- 
faneness write like men that would be thought to have virtue 
and piety at heart. This may, perhaps, prove them inconsistent 
writers, but can never prove them to be innocent. When a man's 
declared principles and peculiar tenets are utterly subversive of 
these things, whatever such an one saith of virtue, piety, and 
religion will be understood as mere deception, and compliance 
with common forms.] 

Lys. To speak the truth, I, for my part, had never any liking to 
religion of any kind, either revealed or unrevealed, and I dare 
venture to say the same for those gentlemen of our sect that I am 
acquainted with, having never observed them guilty of so much 
meanness as even to mention the name of God with reverence, or 
to speak with the least regard of piety or any sort of worship. 
There may perhaps be found one or two formal pretenders to 
enthusiasm and devotion, in the way of natural religion, who 
laughed at Christians for publishing hymns and meditations, while 
they plagued the world with as bad of their own ; but the sprightly 
men made a jest of all this. It seems to us mere pedantry. Some- 

38 Cf. Theory of Vision Vindicated, sect. 26. 

39 Added in second edition, and afterwards omitted. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 207 

times, indeed, in good company one may hear a word dropped in 
commendation of honour and good-nature; but the former of these, 
by connoisseurs, is always understood to mean nothing but fashion ; 
as the latter is nothing but temper and constitution, which guides 
a man just as appetite doth a brute. 

38. And after all these arguments and notions, which beget 
one another without end, to take the matter short ; neither I nor 
my friends for our souls could ever comprehend, why man might 
not do very well and govern himself without any religion at all, 
as well as a brute, which is thought the sillier creature of the two. 
Have brutes instincts, senses, appetites, and passions, to steer and 
conduct them? So have men, and reason over and above to 
consult upon occasion. From these premises, we conclude the 
road of human life is sufficiently lighted without religion. 

Cri. Brutes having but small power, limited to things present 
or particular, are sufficiently opposed and kept in order by the 
force or faculties of other animals and the skill of man, without 
conscience or religion : but conscience is a necessary balance to 
human reason, a faculty of such mighty extent and power, especi- 
ally towards mischief. Besides, other animals are, by the law of 
their nature, determined to one certain end or kind of being, 
without inclination or means either to deviate or go beyond it. 
But man hath in him a will and higher principle; by virtue 
whereof he may pursue different or even contrary ends ; and either 
fall short of or exceed the perfection natural to his species in this 
world ; as he is capable, either by giving up the reins to his sensual 
appetites, of degrading himself into the condition of brutes, or 
else by well ordering and improving his mind, of being trans- 
formed into the similitude of angels. Man alone of all animals 
hath understanding to know his God. What availeth this know- 
ledge unless it be to ennoble man, and raise him to an imitation 
and participation of the Divinity ? Or what could such ennoble- 
ment avail if to end with this life ? Or how can these things take 
effect without religion ? But the points of vice and virtue, man 
and beast, sense and intellect, have been already at large can- 
vassed. What ! Lysicles, would you have us go back where we 
were three or four days ago ? 

Lys. By no means : I had much rather go forward, and make an 

208 AlciphroH) or the Minute Philosopher : 

end as soon as possible. But, to save trouble, give me leave to 
tell you once for all that, say what you can, you shall never per- 
suade me so many ingenious agreeable men are in the wrong, and 
a pack of snarling sour bigots in the right. 

29. Cri. O Lysicles! I neither look for religion among bigots, 
nor reason among libertines ; each kind disgrace their several pre- 
tensions ; the one owing no regard even to the plainest and most 
important truths, while the others exert an angry fceal for points 
of least concern. And surely whatever there is of silly, narrow, 
and uncharitable in the bigot, the same is in great measure to be 
imputed to the conceited ignorance and petulant profaneness of 
the libertine. And it is not at all unlikely that, as libertines 
make bigots, so bigots should make libertines, the extreme of one 
party being ever observed to produce a contrary extreme of another. 
And although, while these adversaries draw the rope of contention, 
reason and religion are often called upon, yet are they perhaps 
very little considered or concerned in the contest. 

Lysicles, instead of answering Crito, turned short upon Alci- 
phron. It was always my opinion, said he, that nothing could 
be sillier than to think of destroying Christianity, by crying up 
natural religion. Whoever thinks highly of the one can never, 
with a consistency, think meanly of the other; it being very 
evident that natural religion, without revealed, never was and 
never can be established or received anywhere, but in the brains 
of a few idle speculative men. I was aware what your concessions 
would come to. The belief of a God, virtue, a future state, and 
such fine notions are, as every one may see with half an eye, the 
very basis and corner-stone of the Christian religion. Lay but 
this foundation for them to build on, and you shall soon see what 
superstructures our men of divinity will raise from it. The truth 
and importance of those points once admitted, a man need be no 
conjuror to prove, upon that principle, the excellency and useful- 
ness of the Christian religion. And then to be sure, there must be 
priests to teach and propagate this useful religion. And if priests, 
a regular subordination without doubt in this worthy society, and 
a provision for their maintenance, such as may enable them to 
perform all their rites and ceremonies with decency, and keep 
their sacred character above contempt. And the plain consequence 

The Fifth Dialogue. 209 

of all this is a confederacy between the prince and the priesthood 
to subdue the people; -so we have let in at once upon us, a long 
train of ecclesiastical evils, priestcraft, hierarchy, inquisition. 
We have lost our liberty and property, and put the nation to vast 
expense, only to purchase bridles and saddles for their own backs. 

30. This being spoke with some sharpness of tone, and an 
upbraiding air, touched Alphicron to the quick, who replied 
nothing, but showed confusion in his looks. 

Crito smiling looked at Euphranor and me, then, casting an 
eye on the two philosophers, spoke as follows: If I may be 
admitted to interpose good offices for preventing a rupture 
between old friends and brethren in opinion, I would observe 
that in this charge of Lysicles there is something right and 
something wrong. It seems right to assert, as he doth, that 
the real belief of natural religion will lead a man to approve 
of revealed ; but it is as wrong to assert that Inquisitions, 
tyranny, and ruin must follow from thence. Your free-thinkers, 
without offence be it said, seem to mistake their talent. They 
imagine strongly, but reason weakly ; mighty at exaggera- 
tion, and jejune in argument ! Can no method be found to 
relieve them from the terror of that fierce and bloody animal an 
English parson ? Will it not suffice to pare his talons without 
chopping off his fingers ? Then they are such wonderful patriots 
for liberty and property ! When I hear these two words in the 
mouth of a minute philosopher, I am put in mind of the Teste di 
Ferro at Rome. His Holiness, it seems, not having power to 
assign pensions on Spanish benefices to any but natives of Spain, 
always keeps at Rome two Spaniards, called Teste di Ferro, who 
have the name of all such pensions, but not the profit, which goss 
to Italians. As we may see every day both things and notions 
placed to the account of liberty and property which in reality 
neither have nor are meant to have any share in them. What ! 
Is it impossible for a man to be a Christian but he must be a 
slave ; or a clergyman but he must have the principles of an inqui- 
sitor ? 1 am far from screening and justifying an appetite of domi- 
nation or tyrannical power in ecclesiastics. Some, who have been 
guilty in that respect, have sorely paid for it, and it is to be hoped 
they always will. But, having laid the fury and folly of the 

VOL. ir. P 

2IO Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

ambitious prelate, is it not time to look about and spy whether, 
on the other hand, some evil may not possibly accrue to the state 
from the overflowing fceal of an independent Whig ? This I may 
affirm, without being at any pains to prove it, that the worst 
tyranny this nation ever felt was from the hands of patriots of 
that stamp. 

31. Lys. I don't know. Tyranny is a harsh word, and some- 
times misapplied. When spirited men of independent maxims 
create a ferment, or make a change in the state, he that loseth is 
apt to consider things in one light, and he that wins in another. 
In the mean time, this is certainly good policy, that we should be 
frugal of our money, and reserve it for better uses than to expend 
on the church and religion. 

Cri. Surely the old apologue of the belly and members need not 
be repeated to such knowing men. It should seem as needless to 
observe,' that all other states which ever made any figure in the 
world for wisdom and politeness have thought learning deserved 
encouragement as well as the sword ; that grants for religious uses 
were as fitting as for knights' service ; and foundations for propa- 
gating piety as necessary to the public welfare and defence as 
either civil or military establishments. [ 40 In former times, when 
the clergy were a body much more numerous, wealthy, and power- 
ful ; when in their state of celibacy they gave no pledges to the 
public ; when they enjoyed great exemptions and privileges above 
their fellow-subjects; when they owned obedience to a foreign 
potentate the case was evidently and widely different from 
what it is in our days. And the not discerning or not owning 
this difference is no proof either of sagacity or honesty in 
the minute philosophers.] But I ask who are at this expense, 
and what is this expense so much complained of? 

Lys. As if you had never heard of church-lands and tithes ! 

Cri. But I would fain know how they can be charged as an 
expense, either upon the nation or private men. Where nothing 
is exported the nation loseth nothing: and it is all one to the 
public whether money circulates at home through the hands of a 
vicar or a squire. Then, as for private men, who, for want of 

w Added in second edition, afterwards omitted. 

The Fifth Dialogue. 211 

thought, are full of complaint about the payment of tithes ; can 
any man justly complain of it as a tax, that he pays what never 
belonged to him ? The tenant rents his farm with this condition, 
and pays his landlord proportionately less than if his farm had 
been exempt from it: so he loseth nothing; it being all one to 
him", whether he pays his pastor or his landlord. The landlord 
cannot complain that he has not what he hath no right to, either 
by grant, purchase, or inheritance. This is the case of tithes ; and 
as for the church-lands, he surely can be no free-thinker, nor any 
thinker at all, who doth not see that no man, whether noble, 
gentle, or plebeian, hath any sort of right or claim to them which 
he may not with equal justice pretend to all the lands in the 

Lys. At present indeed we have no right, and that is our 

Crt. You would have then what you have no right to. 

Lys. Not so neither: what we would have is first a right con- 
veyed by law, and, in the next place, the lands by virtue of such 

Cri. In order to this, it might be expedient in the first place, to 
get an act passed for excommunicating from all civil rights every 
man that is a Christian, a scholar, and wears a black coat, as 
guilty of three capital offences against the public weal of this 

Lys. To deal frankly, I think it would be an excellent good act. 
It would provide at once for several deserving men, rare artificers 
in wit, and argument, and ridicule ! who have, too many of them, 
but small fortunes, with a great arrear of merit towards their 
country, which they have so long enlightened and adorned 

Euph. Pray tell me, Lysicles, are not the clergy legally possessed 
of their lands and emoluments ? 

Lys. Nobody denies it. 

Euph. Have they not been possessed of them from time imme- 
morial ? 

Lys. This too I grant. 

Euph. They claim them by law and ancient prescription ? 

Lys. They do. 

Euph. Have the oldest families of the nobility a better title ? 

P 2 

Alciphron y or the Minute Philosopher: 

Lyt. I believe not. It grieves me to see so many overgrown 
estates in the hands of ancient families, on account of no other 
merit but what they brought with them into the world. 

Euph. May you not then as well take their lands too, and bestow 
them on minute philosophers, as persons of more merit ? 

Ly$. So much the better. This enlarges our view and opens a 
new scene : it is very delightful, in the contemplation of truth, to 
behold how one theory grows out of another. 

Ale. Old Paetus used to say that if the clergy were deprived of 
their hire we should lose the most popular argument against them. 

Lyt. But, so long as men live by religion, there will never be 
wanting teachers and writers in defence of it. 

Cri. And how can you be sure they would be wanting though 
they did not live by it , since it is well known Christianity had its 
defenders even when men died by it ? 

Lys. One thing I know : there is a rare nursery of young plants 
growing up, who have been carefully guarded against every air of 
prejudice, and sprinkled with the dew of our choicest principles : 
meanwhile, wishes are wearisome; and to our infinite regret 
nothing can be done, so long as there remains any prejudice in 
favour of old customs and laws and national constitutions, which, 
at bottom, we very well know and can demonstrate to be only 
words and notions. 

33. But I can never hope, Crito, to make you think my schemes 
reasonable. We reason each right upon his own principles, and 
shall never agree till we quit our principles, which cannot be done 
by reasoning. We all talk of just, and right, and wrong, and 
public good, and all those things. The names may be the same, 
but the notions and conclusions very different, perhaps dia- 
metrically opposite j and yet each may admit of clear proofs, and 
be inferred by the same way of reasoning. For instance, the 
gentlemen of the club which I frequent define man to be a social 
animal: consequently, we exclude from this definition all those 
human creatures of whom it may be said, we would rather have 
their room than their company. And such, though wearing the 
shape of man, are to be esteemed, in all account of reason, not as 
men^ but only as human creatures. Hence it plainly follows that 
men of pleasure, men of humour, and men of wit are alone pro- 

The Fifth, Dialogue. 213 

perly and truly to be considered as men. Whatever, therefore, 
conduceth to the emolument of such is for the good of mankind, 
and consequently very just and lawful, although seeming to be 
attended with loss or damage to other creatures : inasmuch as no 
real injury can be done in life or property to those who know not 
how to enjoy them. This we hold for clear and well-connected 
reasoning. But others may view things in another light, assign 
different definitions, draw other inferences, and perhaps consider 
what we suppose the very top and flower of the creation only as a 
wart or excrescence of human nature. From all which there must 
ensue a very different system of morals, politics, rights, and 

Cri. If you have a mind to argue we will argue ; if you have 
more mind to jest, we will laugh with you. 


Ridentem dicere verum 

Quid vetat? 

This partition of our kind into men and human creatures, puts me 
in mind of another notion, broached by one of our club, whom we 
used to call the Pythagorean. 

33. He made a threefold partition of the human species, into 
birds, beasts, and fishes, being of opinion that the road of life lies 
upwards, in a perpetual ascent through the scale of being : in such 
sort that the souls of insects after death make their second ap- 
pearance in the shape of perfect animals, birds, beasts, or fishes ; 
which upon their death are preferred into human bodies ; and in 
the next stage into beings of a higher and more perfect kind. This 
man we considered at first as a sort of heretic because his scheme 
seemed not to consist with our fundamental tenet, the mortality 
of the soul : but he justified the notion to be innocent, inasmuch 
as it included nothing of reward or punishment, and was not 
proved by any argument which supposed or implied either in- 
corporeal spirit or Providence, being only inferred, by way of 
analogy, from what he had observed in human affairs, the court, 
the church, and the army ; wherein the tendency is always upwards 
from lower posts to higher. According to this system, the fishes 
are those men who swim in pleasure, such as petits maitres^ tons 
t, and honest fellows. The beasts are dry, drudging, covetous, 

214 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

rapacious folk, and all those addicted to care and business, like 
oxen, and other dry-land animals, which spend their lives in 
labour and fatigue. The birds are airy notional rrfen, enthusiasts, 
projectors, philosophers, and such-like : in each species every in- 
dividual retaining a tincture of his former state, which constitutes 
what is called genius. If you ask me which species of human 
creatures I like best, I answer, the flying fish : that is, a man of 
animal enjoyment with a mixture of whim. Thus you see we 
have our creeds and our systems, as well as graver folks ; with this 
difference, that they are not strait-laced but sit easy, to be slipped 
off or on, as humour or occasion serves. And now I can, with the 
greatest equanimity imaginable, hear my opinions argued against, 
or confuted. 

34. Ale. It were to be wished all men were of that mind. But 
you should find a sort of men, whom I need not name, that cannot 
bear with the least temper to have their opinions examined or 
their faults censured. They are against reason, because reason is 
against them. For our parts we are all for liberty of conscience. 
If our tenets are absurd, we allow them to be freely argued and 
inspected ; and by parity of reason we might hope to be allowed 
the same privilege with respect to the opinions of other men. 

Cn. O Alciphron! wares that will not bear the light are justly to 
be suspected. Whatever therefore moves you to make this com- 
plaint, take my word I never will : but as hitherto I have allowed 
your reason its full scope, so for the future I always shall. And 
though I cannot approve of railling or declaiming, not even in 
myself, whenever you have shewed me the way to it : yet this I 
will answer for, that you shall ever be allowed to reason as closely 
and as strenuously as you can. But, for the love of truth, be 
candid, and do not spend your strength and our time in points of 
no significancy, or foreign to the purpose, or agreed between us. 
We allow that tyranny and slavery are bad things : but why should 
we apprehend them from the clergy at this time? Rites and 
ceremonies we own are not points of chief moment in religion : 
but why should we ridicule things in their nature, at least, inno- 
cent, and which bear the stamp of supreme authority ? That men 
in divinity, as well as other subjects, are perplexed with useless 
disputes, and are likely to be so as long as the world lasts, I freely 

The Fifth Dialogue. 215 

acknowledge : but why must all the human weakness and mistakes 
of clergymen be imputed to wicked designs? Why indiscrimi- 
nately abuse their character and tenets? Is this like candour, 
love of truth, and free-thinking? It is granted there may be 
found, now and then, spleen and ill-breeding in the clergy : but 
are not the same faults incident to English laymen of a retired 
education and country life ? I grant there is infinite futility in 
the schoolmen : but I deny that a volume of that doth so much 
mischief, as a page of minute philosophy. That weak or wicked 
men should, by favour of the world, creep into power and high 
stations in the church is nothing wonderful; and that in such 
stations they should behave like themselves is natural to suppose. 
But all the while it is evident that not the gospel but the world, 
not the spirit but the flesh, not God but the devil, puts them upon 
their unworthy achievements. We make no difficulty to grant 
that nothing is more infamous than vice and ignorance in a 
clergyman; nothing more base than a hypocrite, more frivolous 
than a pedant, more cruel than an inquisitor. But it must be also 
granted by you, gentlemen, that nothing is more ridiculous and 
absurd than for pedantic, ignorant, and corrupt men to cast the 
first stone at every shadow of their own defects and vices in other 

35. Ale. When I consider the detestable state of slavery and 
superstition, I feel my heart dilate and expand itself to grasp that 
inestimable blessing of independent liberty. This is the sacred and 
high prerogative, the very life and health of our English constitu- 
tion. You must not therefore think it strange, if, with a vigilant 
and curious eye, we guard it against the minutest appearance of 
evil. You must even suffer us to cut round about, and very deep, 
and make use of the magnifying glass, the better to view and 
extirpate every the least speck which shall discover itself in what 
we are careful and jealous to preserve as the apple of our eye. 

Cri. As for unboufided liberty, 1 leave it to savages, among 
whom alone I believe it is to be found : but, for the reasonable 
legal liberty of our constitution, I most heartily and sincerely 
wish it may for ever subsist and flourish among us. You and 
all other Englishmen cannot be too vigilant, or too earnest, to 
preserve this goodly frame, or to curb and disappoint the wicked 

216 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

ambition of whoever, laymen or ecclesiastic, shall attempt to 
change our free and gentle government into a slavish or severe 
one. But what pretext can this afford for your attempts against 
religion, or indeed how can it be consistent with them ? Is not 
the Protestant religion a main part of our legal constitution ? I 
remember to have heard a foreigner remark, that we of this 
island were very good Protestants, but no Christians. But what- 
ever minute philosophers may wish, or foreigners say, it is certain 
our laws speak a different language. 

Ale. This puts me in mind of the wise reasoning of a certain 
sage magistrate, who, being pressed by the raillery and arguments 
of an ingenious man, had nothing to say for his religion but 
that ten millions of people inhabiting the same island might, 
whether right or wrong, if they thought good, establish laws for 
the worshipping of God in their temples, and appealing to Him 
in their courts of justice. And that in case ten thousand ingenious 
men should publicly deride and trample on those laws, it might 
be just and lawful for the said ten millions to expel the said ten 
thousand ingenious men out of their said island. 

Eufh. And pray, what answer would you make to this remark of 
the sage magistrate ? 

Ale. The answer is plain. By the law of nature, which is 
superior to all positive institutions, wit and knowledge have a 
right to command folly and ignorance. 1 say, ingenious men have 
by natural right a dominion over fools. 

Eufh. What dominion over the laws and people of Great 
Britain minute philosophers may be entitled to by nature, 1 
shall not dispute, but leave to be considered by the public. 

Ale. This doctrine, it must be owned, was never thoroughly 
understood before our own times. In the last age, Hobbes and 
his followers, though otherwise very great men, declared for the 
religion of the magistrate ; probably because they were afraid of the 
magistrate : but times are changed, and the magistrates may now 
be afraid of us. 

Crt. I allow the magistrate may well be afraid of you in one 
sense, I mean, afraid to trust you. This brings to my thoughts a 
passage on the trial of Leander for a capital offence. That gentle- 
man having picked out and excluded from his jury, by peremptory 
exception, all but some men of fashion and pleasure, humbly 

The Fifth Dialogue. 217 

moved, when Dorcon was going to kiss the book, that he might 
be required to declare upon honour whether he believed either 
God or gospel. Dorcon, rather than hazard his reputation as a 
man of honour and free-thinker, openly avowed that he believed 
in neither. Upon which the court declared him unfit to serve on 
a jury. By the same reason, so many were set aside as made 
it necessary to put off* the trial. 

We are very easy, replied Alciphron, about being trusted to 
serve on juries, if we can be admitted to serve in lucrative 

Cri. But what if the government should enjoin that every one, 
before he was sworn into office, should make the same declaration 
which Dorcon was required to make ? 

Ale. God forbid ! I hope there is no such design on foot. 

Cri. Whatever designs may be on foot, thus much is certain : 
the Christian reformed religion is a principal part and corner- 
stone of our free constitution ; and I verily think, the only thing 
that makes us deserving of freedom, or capable of enjoying it. 
Freedom is either a blessing or a curse as men use it. And to me 
it seems that if our religion were once destroyed from among us, 
and those notions which pass for prejudices of a Christian educa- 
tion erased from the minds of Britons, the best thing that could 
befal us would be the loss of our freedom. Surely a people wherein 
there is such restless ambition, such high spirits, such animosity 
of faction, so great interests, in contest such unbounded licence 
of speech and press, amidst so much wealth and luxury, nothing 
but those veteres a<vi<e, which you pretend to extirpate, could 
have hitherto kept from ruin. 

36. Under the Christian religion this nation hath been greatly 
improved. From a sort of savages, we have grown civil, polite, 
and learned. We have made a decent and noble figure both at home 
and abroad. And, as our religion decreaseth, 1 am afraid we shall 
be found to have declined. Why then should we persist in the 
dangerous experiment ? 

Ah. One would think, Crito, you had forgot the many 
calamities occasioned by churchmen and religion. 

Cri. And one would think you had forgot what was answered 
this very day to that objection. But, not to repeat eternally 

218 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

the same things, I should observe, in the first place, that, if we 
reflect on the past state of Christendom, and of our country in 
particular, with our feuds and factions subsisting while we were 
all of the same religion, for instance, that of the White and Red 
Roses, so violent and bloody and of such long continuance , we 
can have no assurance that those ill humours, which have since 
shewn themselves under the mask of religion, would not have 
broke out with some other pretext, if this had been wanting. 
I observe, in the second place, that it will not follow, from any 
observations you can make on our history, that the evils, acci- 
dentally occasioned by religion, bear any proportion either to the 
good effects it hath really produced, or the evils it hath prevented. 
Lastly, I observe that the best things may, by accident, be the 
occasion of evil j which accidental effect is not, to speak properly 
and truly, produced by the good thing itself, but by some evil 
thing, which, being neither part, property, nor effect of it, happens 
to be joined with it. But I should be ashamed to insist and 
enlarge on so plain a point. Certainly whatever evils this 
nation might have formerly sustained from superstition, no 
man of common sense will say the evils felt or apprehended 
at present are from that quarter. Priestcraft is not the reigning 
distemper at this day. And surely it will be owned that a wise 
man, who takes upon him to be vigilant for the public weal, 
should touch proper things at proper times, and not prescribe for a 
surfeit when the distemper is a consumption. 

Ale. I think we have sufficiently discussecHhe subject of this 
day's conference. And now, let Lysicles take it as he will, I 
must, in regard to my own character, as a fair and impartial 
adversary, acknowledge there is something in what Crito hath 
said, upon the usefulness of the Christian religion. I will 
even own to you that some of our sect are for allowing it a 
toleration. I remember, at a meeting of several ingenious men, 
after much debate we came successively to diverse resolutions. 
The first was, that no religion ought to be tolerated in the state : 
but this on more mature thought was judged impracticable. The 
second was, that all religion should be tolerated, but none coun- 
tenanced except atheism : but it was apprehended that this might 
breed contentions among the lower sort of people. We came 
therefore to conclude, in the third place, that some religion or 

The Fifth Dialogue. 219 

other should be established for the use of the vulgar. And, after a 
long dispute what this religion should be. Lysis, a brisk young 
man, perceiving no signs of agreement, proposed that the present 
religion might be tolerated, till a better was found. But, allowing 
it to be expedient, I can never think it true, so long as there 
lie unanswerable objections against it, which, if you please, I 
shall take the liberty to propose at our next meeting. 
To which we all agreed. 


The balances of deceit are in his hand. HOSEA xii. 7. 
T^ 'E^airardaOai avrbv bt$> avrov, ir&vTtav xoAcTr&TaTOP. PLATO. 

I. Points agreed. 2. Sundry pretences to revelation. 3. Uncertainty of tradition. 4. 
Object and ground of faith. 5. Some books disputed, others evidently spurious. 6. Style 
and composition of Holy Scripture. 7. Difficulties occurring therein. 8. Obscurity not 
always a defect. 9. Inspiration neither impossible nor absurd. 10. Objections from the 
form and matter of Divine revelation considered. II. Infidelity an effect of narrowness 
and prejudice. 12. Articles of Christian faith not unreasonable. 13. Guilt the natural 
parent of fear. 14. Things unknown reduced to 'the standard of what men know. 
15. Prejudices against the incarnation of the Son of God. 16. Ignorance of the Divine 
economy a source of difficulties. 17. Wisdom of God foolishness toman. 18. Reason 
no blind guide. 19. Usefulness of Divine revelation. 20. Prophecies, whence obscure. 
21. Eastern accounts of time older than the Mosaic. 22. The humour of Egyptians, 
Assyrians, Chaldeans, and other nations, extending their antiquity beyond truth, accounted 
for. 23. Reasons confirming the Mosaic account. 24. Profane historians inconsistent. 
25. Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian. 26. The testimony of Josephus considered. 27. 
Attestation of Jews and Gentiles to Christianity. 28. Forgeries and heresies. 29. Judg- 
ment and attention to minute philosophers. 30. Faith and miracles. 31. Probable argu- 
ments, a sufficient ground of faith. 32. The Christian religion able to stand the test of 
rational inquiry. 

i. THE following day being Sunday, our philosophers lay long in 
bed, while the rest of us went to church in the neighbouring town, 

41 This Dialogue discusses the positive that evidence. The argument passes from 
evidence on which faith in the Divinity the social utility of this form of religion to 
of Christianity rests, and also objections to an examination of its truth. That the 

The Sixth Dialogue. 221 

where we dined at Euphranor's, and after evening service returned 
to the two philosophers, whom we found in the library. They told 
us that, if there was a God, he was present everywhere as well 
as at church ; and that if we had been serving him one way, they 
did not neglect to do as much another ; inasmuch as a free exercise 
of reason must be allowed the most acceptable service and wor- 
ship that a rational creature can offer to its Creator. However, 
said Alciphron, if you, gentlemen, can but solve the difficulties 
which I shall propose to-morrow morning, I promise to go to church 
next Sunday. 

After some general conversation of this kind, we sat down 
to a light supper, and the next morning assembled at the same 
place as the day before ; where being all seated, I observed, that 
the foregoing week our conferences had been carried on for a 
longer time and with less interruption than I had ever known, or 
well could be, in town; where men's hours are so broken by visits, 
business, and amusements, that whoever is content to form his 
notions from conversation only must needs have them very shat- 
tered and imperfect. 

And what have we got, replied Alciphron, by all these con- 
tinued conferences ? For my part, I think myself just where I was 
with respect to the main point that divides us the truth of the 
Christian religion. 

I answered, that so many points had been examined, discussed, 
and agreed, between him and his adversaries, that I hoped to see 
them come to an entire agreement in the end. For, in the 
first place, said I, the principles and opinions of those who are 
called free-thinkers, or minute philosophers, have been pretty 
clearly explained 4 ' 2 . It hath been also agreed, That vice is 
not of that benefit to the nation which some men imagine; 
that virtue is highly useful to mankind : but that the beauty 
of virtue is not alone sufficient to engage them in the practice 

evidence for Christianity is essentially moral and nature, have superseded details in this 
or probable, and addressed to faith ; not Dialogue more than in any other of the 
scientific or demonstrative, and addressed to seven. Nevertheless, it is an ingenious re- 
speculative reason, is acknowledged, indeed futation of objections to the truth of Chris- 
urged, by Crito, at the close of the dis- tianity according to the conceptions of the 
cussion. Lockian epoch, and chiefly at that point of 

The progress of historical criticism and view, 

scientific research, with the consequent revo- 42 Dial. I. 

lution in men's recent conceptions of history tt Dial. II. 

222 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

of it 44 ; that therefore the belief of a God and Providence ought 
to be encouraged in the state, and tolerated in good company, 
as a useful notion 44 . Further, it hath been proved that there is 
a God 45 : that it is reasonable to worship Him : and that the wor- 
ship, faith, and principles prescribed by the Christian religion 
haye a useful tendency 46 . 

Admit, replied Alciphron, addressing himself to Crito, all 
that Dion saith to be true: yet this doth not hinder my being 
just where I was, with respect to the main point. Since there 
is nothing in all this that proves the truth of the Christian reli- 
gion : though each of those particulars enumerated may, perhaps, 
prejudice in its favour. I am, therefore, to suspect myself at 
present for a prejudiced person; prejudiced, I say, in favour of 
Christianity. This, as I am a lover of truth, puts me upon my 
guard against deception. I must, therefore, look sharp, and well 
consider every step I take. 

2. Cri. You may remember, Alciphron, you proposed, for the 
subject of our present conference the consideration of certain 
difficulties and objections which you had to offer against the 
Christian religion. We are now ready to hear and consider what- 
ever you shall think fit to produce of that kind. Atheism, and a 
wrong notion of Christianity, as of something hurtful to mankind, 
are great prejudices ; the removal of which may dispose a man to 
argue with candour, and submit to reasonable proof: but the 
removing prejudices against an opinion is not to be reckoned 
prejudicing in its favour. It may be hoped, therefore, that you will 
be able to do justice to your cause, without being fond of it. 

Ale. O Crito ! that man may thank his stars to whom nature 
hath given a sublime soul, who can raise himself above popular 
opinions, and, looking down on the herd of mankind, behold them 
scattered over the surface of the whole earth, divided and subdi- 
vided into numberless nations and tribes, differing in notions and 
tenets, as in language, manners, and dress. The man who takes 
a general view of the world and its inhabitants from this lofty 
stand, above the reach of prejudice, seems to breathe a purer air, 
and to see by a clearer light : but how to impart this clear and 

** Dial. III. Dial. IV. * Dial. V. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 223 

extensive view to those "who are wandering beneath in the narrow 
dark paths of error! This indeed is a hard task- yet, hard as it 
is, I shall try if by any means 

Clara tuae possim praepandcre lumina menti. LUCRET. 

Know then that all the various casts or sects of the sons of men 
have each their faith, and their religious system, germinating and 
sprouting forth from that common grain of Enthusiasm which is 
an original ingredient in the composition of human nature. They 
shall each tell of intercourse with the invisible world, revelations 
from heaven, divine oracles, and the like. All which pretensions, 
when I regard with an impartial eye, it is impossible I should assent 
to all, when I find within myself something that withholds me 
from assenting to any of them. For, although I may be willing to 
follow, so far as common sense and the light of nature lead ; yet 
the same reason that bids me yield to rational proof forbids me 
to admit opinions without proof. This holds in general against 
all revelations whatsoever. And be this my first objection against 
the Christian in particular. 

Cri. As this objection supposes there is no proof or reason for 
believing the Christian revelation, if good reason can be assigned 
for such belief, it comes to nothing. Now, I presume you will 
grant the authority of the reporter is a true and proper reason for 
believing reports: and the better this authority, the juster claim it 
hath to our assent : but the authority of God is on all accounts the 
best: whatever therefore comes from God, it is most reasonable 
to believe. 

3. Ale. This I grant ; but then it must be proved to come from 

Cri. And are not miracles, and the accomplishments of pro- 
phecies, joined with the excellency of its doctrine, a sufficient 
proof that the Christian religion came from God ? 

Ale. Miracles, indeed, would prove something. But what proof 
have we of these miracles ? 

Cri. Proof of the same kind that we have or can have of any facts 
done a great way off, and a long time ago. We have authentic 
accounts transmitted down to us from eye-witnesses, whom we 
cannot conceive tempted to impose upon us by any human motive 

224 AlciphroH) or the Minute Philosopher: 

whatsoever $ inasmuch as they acted therein contrary to their 
interests, their prejudices, and the very principles in which they 
had been nursed and educated. These accounts were confirmed 
by the unparalleled subversion of the city of Jerusalem, and the 
dispersion of the Jewish nation, which is a standing testimony to 
the truth of the gospel, particularly of the predictions of our blessed 
Saviour. These accounts, within less than a century, were spread 
throughout the world, and believed by great numbers of people. 
These same accounts were committed to writing, translated into 
several languages, and handed down with the same respect and 
consent of Christians in the most distant churches. 

Do you not see, said Alciphron, staring full at Crito, that all 
this hangs by tradition ? And tradition, take my word for it, gives 
but a weak hold: it is a chain, whereof the first links may be 
stronger than steel, and yet the last weak as wax, and as brittle as 
glass. Imagine a picture copied successively by a hundred painters, 
one from another ; how like must the last copy be to the original ! 
How lively and distinct will an image be, after a hundred reflec- 
tions between two parallel mirrors ! Thus like and thus lively do 
I think a faint vanishing tradition, at the end of sixteen or seven- 
teen hundred years. Some men have a false heart, others a wrong 
head j and, where both are true, the memory may be treacherous. 
Hence there is still something added, something omitted, and 
something varied from the truth : and the sum of many such addi- 
tions, deductions, and alterations accumulated for several ages do, 
at the foot of the account, make quite another thing. 

Crl. Ancient facts we may know by tradition, oral or written : 
and this latter we may divide into two kinds, private and public, 
as writings are kept in the hands of particular men, or recorded in 
public archives. Now, all these three sorts of tradition, for aught 
I can see, concur to attest the genuine antiquity of the gospels. 
And they are strengthened by collateral evidence from rites insti- 
tuted, festivals observed, and monuments erected by ancient 
Christians, such as churches, baptisteries, and sepulchres. Now, 
allowing your objection holds against oral tradition, singly taken, 
yet I can think it no such difficult thing to transcribe faithfully. 
And things once committed to writing are secure from slips of 
memory, and may with common care be preserved entire so long 
as the manuscript lasts : and this experience shews may be above 

The Sixth Dialogue. 225 

two thousand years. The Alexandrine manuscript 4 / is allowed to 
be above twelve hundred years old and it is highly probable there 
were then extant copies four hundred years old. A tradition, there- 
fore, of above sixteen hundred years old need have only two or 
three links in its chain. And these links, notwithstanding that 
great length of time, may be very sound and entire. Since no 
reasonable man will deny, that an ancient manuscript may be of 
much the same credit now as when it was first written. We have 
it on good authority, and it seems probable, that the primitive 
Christians were careful to transcribe copies of the gospels and 
epistles for their private use , and that other copies were preserved 
as public records, in the several churches throughout the world j 
and that portions thereof were constantly read in their assemblies. 
Can more be said to prove the writings of classic authors, or 
ancient records of any kind authentic ? 

Alciphron, addressing his discourse to Euphranor, said It is 
one thing to silence an adversary, and another to convince him. 
What do you think, Euphranor ? 

Eufh. Doubtless, it is. 

Ale. But what I want is to be convinced. 

Euph. That point is not so clear. 

Ale. But if a man had ever so much mind, he cannot be con- 
vinced by probable arguments against demonstration. 

Eufh. I grant he cannot. 

4. Ale. Now, it is as evident as demonstration can make it, 
that no Divine faith can possibly be built upon tradition. Suppose 
an honest and credulous countryman catechised and lectured every 
Sunday by his parish priest : it is plain he believes in the parson, 
and not in God. He knows nothing of revelations, and doctrines, 
and miracles but what the priest tells him. This he believes, 
and this faith is purely human. If you say he has the Liturgy and 
the Bible for the foundation of his faith, the difficulty still recurs. 
For, as to the Liturgy, he pins his faith upon the civil magistrate, 
as well as the ecclesiastic : neither of which can pretend Divine 
inspiration. Then for the Bible, he takes both that and his Prayer- 
book on trust from the printer, who, he believes, made true 

47 The latter part of the sixth century is that celebrated MS. of Holy Scripture, in 
the probable date of the Alexandrian Codex, Greek, now in the British Museum. 


226 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

editions from true copies. You see then faith, but what faith ? 
Faith in the priest, in the magistrate, in the printer, editor, 
transcriber, none of which can with any pretence be called 
Divine. I had the hint from Cratylus 48 ; it is a shaft out of 
his quiver, and believe me, a keen one. 

Euph. Let me take and make trial of this same shaft in my 
hands. Suppose then your countryman hears a magistrate declare 
the law from the bench, or suppose he reads it in a statute-book. 
What think you, is the printer or the justice the true and proper 
object of his faith and submission ? Or do you acknowledge a 
higher authority whereon to found those loyal acts, and in which 
they do really terminate ? Again, suppose you read a passage in 
Tacitus that you believe true ; would you say you assented to 
it on the authority of the printer or transcriber rather than the 
historian ? 

Ale. Perhaps I would, and perhaps I would not. I do not think 
myself obliged to answer these points. What is this but trans- 
ferring the question from one subject to another? That which 
we considered was neither law nor profane history, but religious 
tradition, and Divine faith. I see plainly what you aim at, 
but shall never take for an answer to one difficulty, the starting 
of another. 

Cri. O Alciphron ! there is no taking hold of you, who expect 
that others should (as you were pleased to express 4fJ ) hold fair 
and stand firm, while you plucked out their prejudices. How 
shall he argue with you but from your concessions, and how 
can he know what you grant except you will be pleased to tell 
him ? 

Euph. But, to save you the trouble, for once I will suppose 
an answer. My question admits but of two answers : take your 
choice. From the one it will follow that, by a parity of reason, 
we can easily conceive how a man may have Divine faith, though 
he never felt inspiration or saw a miracle : inasmuch as it is 
equally possible for the mind, through whatever conduit, oral 
or scriptural, Divine revelation be derived, to carry its thoughts 
and submission up to the source, and terminate its faith not 
in human but Divine authority j not in the instrument or vessel 

* 8 See Shaftesbury's Characteristics, vol. I. pp. 146, 147; III. pp. 72, 320 324. 
49 Dial. I. sect. 5. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 227 

of conveyance, but in the great origin itself, as its proper and 
true object. From the other answer it will follow that you 
introduce a general scepticism into human knowledge, and break 
down the hinges on which civil government, and all the affairs 
of the world, turn and depend : in a word, that you would destroy 
human faith to get rid of Divine. And how this agrees with 
your professing that you want to be convinced I leave you to 

5. Ale. I should in earnest be glad to be convinced one way or 
other, and come to some conclusion. But I have so many objec- 
tions in store you are not to count much upon getting over one. 
Depend on it you shall find me behave like a gentleman and a 
lover of truth. I will propose my objections briefly and plainly, 
and accept of reasonable answers as fast as you can give them. 
Come, Euphranor, make the most of your tradition; you can never 
make that a constant and universal one, which is acknowleged 
to have been unknown, or at best disputed, in the Church for 
several ages : and this is the case of the canon of the New Testa- 
ment. For, though we have now a canon, as they call it, settled, yet 
every one must see and own that tradition cannot grow stronger 
by age; and that what was uncertain in the primitive times 
cannot be undoubted in the subsequent. What say you to 
this, Euphranor ? 

Euph. I should be glad to conceive your meaning clearly before 
I return an answer. It seems to me this objection of yours sup- 
poseth that where a tradition hath been constant and undisputed, 
such tradition may be admitted as a proof; but that where the 
tradition is defective, the proof must be so too. Is this your 
meaning ? 

Ale. It is, 

Euph. Consequently the Gospels, and Epistles of St. Paul, which 
were universally received in the beginning, and never since 
doubted of by the Church, must, notwithstanding this objection, 
be in reason admitted for genuine. And, if these books contain, 
as they really do, all those points that come into controversy 
between you and me, what need I dispute with you about the 
authority of some other books of the New Testament, which came 
later to be generally known and received in the Church? If a 

228 Alciphron, or the Mimite Philosopher: 

man assent to the undisputed books, he is no longer an infidel ; 
though he should not hold the Revelations, or the Epistle of 
St. James or Jude, or the latter of St. Peter, or the two last of 
St. John to be canonical. The additional authority of these 
portions of Holy Scripture may have its weight in particular 
controversies between Christians, but can add nothing to argu- 
ments against an infidel as such. Wherefore, though I believe 
good reasons may be assigned for receiving these books, yet these 
reasons seem now beside our purpose. When you are a Christian 
it will be then time enough to argue this point. And you will 
be the nearer being so, if the way be shortened by omitting it for 
the present. 

Ale. Not so near neither as you perhaps imagine: for, not- 
withstanding all the fair and plausible things you may say about 
tradition, when I consider the spirit of forgery which reigned 
in the primitive times, and reflect on the several Gospels, Acts, 
and Epistles, attributed to the apostles, which yet are acknow- 
ledged to be spurious, I confess I cannot help suspecting the 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, do you suspect all Plato's writings 
for spurious, because the Dialogue upon Death^ for instance, is 
allowed to be so ? Or will you admit none of Tully's writings to be 
genuine, because Sigonius'' imposed a book of his own writing for 
Tully's treatise De Consolatione, and the imposture passed for 
some time on the world ? 

Ale. Suppose I admit for the works of Tully and Plato those 
that commonly pass for such. What then ? 

Euph. Why then I would fain know whether it be equal and 
impartial in a free-thinker, to measure the credibility of profane 
and sacred books by a different rule. Let us know upon what foot 
we Christians are to argue with minute philosophers j whether we 
may be allowed the benefit of common maxims in logic and 
criticism ? If we may, be pleased to assign a reason why sup- 
positious writings, which in the style and manner and matter bear 
visible marks of imposture, and have accordingly been rejected 

60 Sigonius (Sigonio or Sigone), a famous the author. It was accepted at the time by 

Italian scholar and antiquary in the sixteenth many of the learned, and Tiraboshi was 

century, who passed off as genuine a skilful undeceived only by finding letters in which 

imitation of Cicero, in the form of a treatise Sigonius allows the forgeiy. 
De Consolations, of which he was himself 

The Sixth Dialogue. 229 

by the Church, can be made an argument against those which 
have been universally received, and handed down by an unanimous 
constant tradition. There have been in all ages, and in all great 
societies of men many capricious, vain, or wicked impostors, who 
for different ends have abused the world by spurious writings, and 
created work for critics both in profane and sacred learning. And 
it would seem as silly to reject the true writings of profane authors 
for the sake of the spurious, as it would seem unreasonable to sup- 
pose, that among the heretics and several sects of Christians there 
should be none capable of the like imposture. 
I [ 51 ^/<r. I see no means for judging: it is all dark and doubtful; 
mere guess-work, at so great distance of time. 

Cri. But if I know that a number of fit persons, met together in 
Council, did examine and distinguish authentic writings from 
spurious, relating to a point of the highest concern, in an age 
near the date of those writings ; though I at the distance of many 
more centuries had no other proof, yet their decision may be of 
weight to determine my judgment. Since it is probable they might 
have had several proofs and reasons for what they did, and not 
at all improbable that those reasons might be lost in so long 
a tract of time 3 -.] 

6. Ale. But, be the tradition ever so well attested, and the 
books ever so genuine, yet I cannot suppose them wrote by persons 
divinely inspired so long as I see in them certain characters 
inconsistent with such a supposition. Surely the purest language, 
the most perfect style, the exactcst method, and in a word all the 
excellences of good writing, might be expected in a piece composed 
or dictated by the Spirit of God. But books wherein we find the 
reverse of all this, it were impious not to reject, but to attribute 
to the Divinity. 

Euph. Say, Alciphron, are the lakes, the rivers, or the ocean, 
bounded by straight lines? Are the hills and mountains exact 
cones or pyramids ? Or the stars cast into regular figures ? 

Ale. They are not. 

Euph. But in the works of insects we may observe figures as 
exact as if they were drawn by the rule and compass. 

51 Added in the second edition, and M [Vide Can. LX. Concil. Laodicen.] 

omitted afterwards. AUTHOR. 

230 Alciphron y or the Minute Philosopher: 

Ale. We may. 

Eufh. Should it not seem, therefore, that a regular exactness, or 
scrupulous attention to what men call the rules of art, is not ob- 
served in the great productions of the Author of nature ? 

Ale. It should. 

Euph. And when a great prince declareth his will in laws and 
edicts to his subjects, is he careful about a pure style or elegant 
composition? Does he not leave his secretaries and clerks to 
express his sense in their own words ? Is not the phrase on such 
occasions thought proper if it conveys as much as was intended ? 
And would not the divine strain of certain modern critics be 
judged affected, and improper for such uses ? 

Ale. It must be owned, laws, and edicts, and grants, for 
solecism and tautology, are very offensive to the harmonious ears 
of a fine writer. 

Euph. Why then should we expect in the Oracles of God an 
exactness that would be misbecoming and beneath the dignity of 
an earthly monarch, and which bears no proportion or resemblance 
to the magnificent works of the creation ? 

Ale. But, granting that a nice regard to particles and critical 
rules is a thing too little and mean to be expected in Divine 
revelations; and that there is more force, and spirit, and true 
greatness in a negligent, unequal style, than in the well- 
turned periods of a polite writer yet what is all this to the 
bald and flat compositions of those you call the Divine pen- 
men ? I can never be persuaded the Supreme Being would 
pick out the poorest and meanest scribblers for his secretaries. 

Euph. O Alciphron ! if I durst follow my own judgment, I 
should be apt to think there are noble beauties in the style of 
the Holy Scripture: in the narrative parts a strain so simple 
and unaffected : in the devotional and prophetic so animated and 
sublime: and in the doctrinal parts such an air of dignity and 
authority as seems to speak their original Divine. But I shall 
not enter into a dispute about taste ; much less set up my judg- 
ment on so nice a point against that of the wits, and men of 
genius, with which your sect abounds. And 1 have no temptation 
to it, inasmuch as it seems to me the Oracles of God are not the 
less so for being delivered in a plain dress, rather than in c the 
enticing words of man's wisdom/ 

The Sixth Dialogue. 231 

Ah. This may perhaps be an apology for some simplicity and 
negligence in writing. 

7. But what apology can be made for nonsense, crude nonsense ? 
Of which I could easily assign many instances, having once in my 
life read the Scripture through with that very view. Look here, 
said he, opening a Bible, in the forty-ninth Psalm, the author 
begins magnificently, calling upon all the inhabitants of the earth 
to give ear, and assuring them his mouth shall speak of wisdom, 
and the meditation of his heart shall be of understanding : 

Quid dignum tanto feret hie promissor hiatu? 

He hath no sooner done with his preface but he puts this sense- 
less question, c Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil ; when 
the wickedness of my heels shall compass me about ?' The 
iniquity of my heels! What nonsense after such a solemn in- 
troduction ! 

Euph. For my own part, I have naturally weak eyes, and know 
there are many things that I cannot see, which are nevertheless 
distinctly seen by others. I do not therefore conclude a thing to 
be absolutely invisible, because it is so to me. And, since it is 
possible it may be with my understanding as it is with my eyes, 
I dare not pronounce a thing to be nonsense, because I do not 
understand it. Of this passage many interpretations are given. 
The word rendered heels may signify fraud or supplantation : by 
some it is translated c past wickedness/ the heel being the hinder 
part of the foot; by others c iniquity in the end of my days/ the 
heel being one extremity of the body ; by some c the iniquity of 
my enemies that may supplant me / by others c my own faults or 
iniquities which 1 have passed over as light matters, and trampled 
under my feet/ Some render it c the iniquity of my ways/ others, 
c my transgressions, which are like slips and slidings of the heel/ 
And after all, might not this expression, so harsh and odd to Eng- 
lish ears, have been very natural and obvious in the Hebrew tongue, 
which, as every other language, had its idioms ? the force and pro- 
priety whereof may as easily be conceived lost in a long tract 
of time, as the signification of some Hebrew words which are 
not now intelligible, though nobody doubts but they had once a 
meaning as well as the other words of that language. Granting, 

232 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

therefore., that certain passages in the Holy Scripture may not be 
understood, it will not thence follow that its penman wrote 
nonsense; for I conceive nonsense to be one thing, and unin- 
telligible another. 

Cri. An English gentleman of my acquaintance one day enter- 
taining some foreigners at his house sent a servant to know the 
occasion of a sudden tumult in the yard, who brought him word, 
c the horses were fallen together by the ears." His guests inquiring 
what the matter was, he translates it literally, Les chevaux sont 
tombez, ensemble far fes oreilles : which made them stare ; what 
expressed a very plain sense in the original English being in- 
comprehensible when rendered word for word into French. And 
I remember to have heard a man excuse the bulls of his country- 
men, by supposing them so many literal translations. 

Euph. But, not to grow tedious, I refer to the critics and com- 
mentators, where you will find the use of this remark, which, 
clearing up several obscure passages you take for nonsense, may 
possibly incline you to suspect your own judgment of the rest. 
In this very psalm you have pitched on, the good sense and moral 
contained in what follows, should, methinks, make a candid reader 
judge favourably of the original sense of the author, in that part 
which he could not understand. Say, Alciphron, in reading the 
classics, do you forthwith conclude every passage to be nonsense 
that you cannot make sense of ? 

Ale. By no means; difficulties must be supposed to rise from 
different idioms, old customs, hints, and allusions, clear in one 
time or place, and obscure in another. 

Euph. And why will you not judge of Scripture by the same rule ? 
These sources of obscurity you mention are all common both to 
sacred and profane writings; and there is no doubt but an exacter 
knowledge in language and circumstances would in both cause 
difficulties to vanish like shades before the light of the sun. 
Jeremiah, to describe a furious invader, saith, c Behold he shall 
come up as a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habita- 
tion of the strong 53 / One would be apt to think this passage odd 
and improper, and that it had been more reasonable to have said, 
c a lion from the mountain or the desert.' But travellers, as an 

53 Jeremiah xlix. 19. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 233 

ingenious man observes, who have seen the river Jordan bounded 
by low lands with many reeds or thickets affording shelter to wild 
beasts (which being suddenly dislodged by a rapid overflowing of 
the river rush into the upland country), perceive the force and 
propriety of the comparison ; and that the difficulty proceeds, not 
from nonsense in the writer, but from ignorance in the reader. It 
is needless to amass together instances which may be found in 
every commentator. I only beg leave to observe, that sometimes 
men looking higher or deeper than they need, for a profound or 
remote sense, overlook the natural obvious sense lying, if I may 
so say, at their feet, and so make difficulties instead of finding 
them. This seems to be the case of that celebrated passage, 
which hath created so much work, in St. Paul's First Epistle to 
the Corinthians ^ : c What shall they do which are baptized for 
the dead, if the dead rise not at all ? Why are they then baptized 
for the dead?' I remember to have heard this text explained by 
Laches, the vicar of our parish, to my neighbour Lycon, who was 
much perplexed about its meaning. If it had been translated, as 
it might very justly, c baptized for the sake of the dead,' I do not 
see, said Laches, why people should be puzzled about the sense 
of this passage j for, tell me, I beseech you, for whose sake do 
you think those Christians were baptized ? For whose sake, 
answered Lycon, but their own? How do you mean, for their 
own sake in this life, or the next? Doubtless, in the next, for 
it was plain they could get nothing by it in this. They were 
then, replied Laches, baptized not for the sake of themselves 
while living, but for the sake of themselves when dead ; not for 
the living, but the dead? I grant it. Baptism, therefore, must 
have been to them a fruitless thing, if the dead rise not at all? 
It must. Whence Laches inferred that St. Paul's argument was 
clear and pertinent for the resurrection: and Lycon allowed it 
to be argumentum ad hominem to those who had sought baptism. 
There is then, concluded Laches, no necessity for supposing that 
living men were in those days baptized instead of those who died 
without baptism, or of running into any other odd suppositions 
or strained and far-fetched interpretation to make sense of this 

Ale. Here and there a difficult passage may be cleared : but 

54 i Corinth, xv. 29. 

234 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

there are many which no art or wit of man can account for. 
What say you to those discoveries, made by some of our learned 
writers, of false citations from the Old Testament found in the 
Gospel ? 

Euph. That some few passages are cited by the writers of the 
New Testament out of the Old, and by the Fathers out of the 
New, which are not in so many words to be found in them, is no 
new discovery of minute philosophers, but was known and observed 
long before by Christian writers j who have made no scruple to 
grant that some things might have been inserted by careless or 
mistaken transcribers into the text, from the margin, others left 
out, and others altered ; whence so many various readings. But 
these are things of small moment, and which all other ancient 
authors have been subject to j and upon which no point of doc- 
trine depends which may not be proved without them. Nay 
further, if it be any advantage to your cause, it hath been ob- 
served, that the eighteenth Psalm, as recited in the twenty- 
second chapter of the Second Book of Samuel, varies in about 
forty places, if you regard every little verbal or literal difference ; 
and that a critic may now and then discover small variations 
is what nobody can deny. But, to make the most of these 
concessions, what can you infer from them more than that 
the design of the Holy Scripture was not to make us exactly 
knowing in circumstantials? and that the Spirit did not dictate 
every particle and syllable, or preserve them from every minute 
alteration by miracle ? which to believe, would look like Rabbinical 

Ale. But what marks of Divinity can possibly be in writings 
which do not reach the exactness even of human art? 

Euph. I never thought nor expected that the Holy Scripture 
should show itself Divine, by a circumstantial accuracy of narra- 
tion, by exactness of method, by strictly observing the rules of 
rhetoric, grammar, and criticism, in harmonious periods, in elegant 
and choice expressions, or in technical definitions and partitions. 
These things would look too like a human composition- Methinks 
there is in that simple, unaffected, artless, unequal, bold, figura- 
tive style of the Holy Scripture, a character singularly great and 
majestic, and that looks more like Divine inspiration than any 
other composition that I know. But, as I said before, I shall not 

The Sixth Dialogue. 235 

dispute a point of criticism with the gentlemen of your sect, who, 
it seems, are the modern standard for wit and taste. 

Ale. Well, I shall not insist on small slips, or the inaccuracy 
of citing or transcribing. And I freely own, that repetitions, want 
of method, or want of exactness in circumstances, are not the 
things that chiefly stick with me ; no more than the plain patri- 
archal manners, or the peculiar usages and customs of the Jews 
and first Christians, so different from ours; and that to reject 
the Scripture on such accounts would be to act like those French 
wits who censure Homer because they do not find in him the 
style, notions, and manners of their own age and country. Was 
there nothing else to divide us, I should make no great difficulty 
of owning that a popular incorrect style might answer the general 
ends of revelation, as well perhaps as a more critical and exact 
one. But the obscurity still sticks with me. Methinks if the 
supreme Being had spoke to man, He would have spoke clearly 
to him, and that the Word of God should not need a comment. 

8. Euph. You seem, Alciphron, to think obscurity a defect ; but 
if it should prove to be no defect, there would then be no force in 
this objection. 

Ale. I grant there would not. 

Euph. Pray tell me, are not speech and style instrumental to 
convey thoughts and notions, to beget knowledge, opinion, and 
assent ? 

Ale. This is true. 

Euph. And is not the perfection of an instrument to be measured 
by the use to which it is subservient ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. What therefore is a defect in one instrument may be 
none in another. For instance, edged tools are in general 
designed to cut; but, the uses of an axe and a razor being 
different, it is no defect in an axe that it hath not the keen 
edge of a razor ; nor in a razor that it hath not the weight 
or strength of an axe. 

Ale. I acknowledge this to be true. 

Euph. And may we not say in general, that every instrument 
is perfect which answers the purpose or intention of him who 
useth it. 

236 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Ale. We may. 

Euph. Hence it seems to follow, that no man's speech is de- 
fective in point of clearness, though it should not be intelligible to 
all men, if it be sufficiently so to those who he intended should 
understand it; or though it should not in all parts be equally 
clear, or convey a perfect knowledge, where he intended only 
an imperfect hint. 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. Ought we not therefore to know the intention of the 
speaker, to be able to know whether his style be obscure through 
defect or design ? 

Ale. We ought. 

Euph. But is it possible for one man to know all the ends and 
purposes of God's revelations ? 

Ale. It is not. 

Euph. How then can you tell but the obscurity of some parts of 
Scripture may well consist with the purpose which you know not, 
and consequently be no argument against its coming from God ? 
The books of Holy Scripture were written in ancient languages, 
at distant times, on sundry occasions, and very different subjects. 
Is it not, therefore, reasonable to imagine that some parts or 
passages might have been clearly enough understood by those 
for whose proper use they were principally designed, and yet seem 
obscure to us, who speak another language, and live in other 
times ? Is it at all absurd or unsuitable to the notion we have 
of God or man, to suppose that God may reveal, and yet reveal 
with a reserve upon certain remote and sublime subjects, content 
to give us hints and glimpses, rather than views ? May we not 
also suppose, from the reason of things and the analogy of nature, 
that some points, which might otherwise have been more clearly 
explained, were left obscure merely to encourage our diligence 
and modesty? Two virtues, which, if it might not seem dis- 
respectful to such great men, I would recommend to the minute 

Lysicles replied, This indeed is excellent! You expect that men 
of sense and spirit should in great humility put out their eyes, and 
blindly swallow all the absurdities and nonsense that shall be 
offered to them for Divine revelation. 

Euph. On the contrary, 1 would have them open their eyes, look 

The Sixth Dialogue. 237 

sharply, and try the spirit, whether it is of God j and not supinely 
and ignorantly condemn in the gross all religions together, piety 
with superstition, truth for the sake of error, matter of fact for the 
sake of fiction: a conduct which at first sight would seem absurd 
in history, physic, or any other branch of human inquiry. But, 
to compare the Christian system, or Holy Scriptures, with other 
pretences to Divine revelation- to consider impartially the doc- 
trines, precepts, and events therein contained; weigh them in the 
balance with any other religious, natural, moral, or historical 
accounts ; and diligently to examine all those proofs, internal and 
external, that for so many ages have been able to influence and 
persuade so many wise, learned, and inquisitive men perhaps 
they might find in it certain peculiar characters which sufficiently 
distinguish it from all other religions and pretended revelations, 
whereon to ground a reasonable faith. In which case, I leave 
them to consider whether it would be right to reject with 
peremptory scorn a revelation so distinguished and attested, upon 
account of obscurity in some parts of it ? and whether it would 
seem beneath men of their sense and spirit to acknowledge that, 
for aught they know, a light inadequate to things may yet be 
adequate to the purpose of Providence ? and whether it might be 
unbecoming their sagacity and critical skill to own, that literal 
translations from books in an ancient oriental tongue, wherein 
there are so many peculiarities, as to the manner of writing, the 
figures of speech, and structure of the phrase, so remote from all 
our modern idioms, and in which we have no other coeval writings 
extant, might well be obscure in many places, especially such 
as treat of subjects sublime and difficult in their own nature, or 
allude to things, customs, or events very distant from our know- 
ledge ? And lastly, whether it might not become their character, 
as impartial and unprejudiced men, to consider the Bible in the 
same light they would profane authors ? They are apt to make 
great allowance for transpositions, omissions, and literal errors of 
transcribers in other ancient books, and very great for the dif- 
ference of style and manner, especially in Eastern writings, such as 
the remains of Zoroaster and Confucius, and why not in the 
Prophets ? In reading Horace or Persius, to make out the sense, 
they will be at the pains to discover a hidden drama, and why not 
in Solomon or St. Paul ? I hear there are certain ingenious men 

238 Alciphron, or the Mimite Philosopher: 

who despise King David's poetry, and yet profess to admire 
Homer and Pindar. If there be no prejudice or affectation in 
this, let them but make a literal version from those authors 
into English prose, and they will then be better able to judge 
of the Psalms. 

Ale. You may discourse and expatiate, but, notwithstanding 
all you have said or shall say, it is a clear point, that a revela- 
tion which doth not reveal can be no better than a contradiction 
in terms. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, do you not acknowledge the light of 
the sun to be the most glorious production of Providence in this 
natural world ? 

Ale. Suppose I do. 

Euph. This light, nevertheless, which you cannot deny to be 
of God's making, shines only on the surface of things, shines 
not at all in the night, shines imperfectly in the twilight, is often 
interrupted, refracted, and obscured, represents distant things 
and small things dubiously, imperfectly, or not at all. Is this true 
or no? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Should it not follow, therefore, that to expect in this 
world a light from God, without any mixture of shade or mystery, 
would be departing from the rule and analogy of the creation ? 
and that, consequently, it is no argument the light of revelation 
is not Divine, because it may not be so clear and full as you 
expect [; 55 or because it may not equally shine at all times, or 
in all places], 

Ale. As I profess myself candid and indifferent throughout 
this debate, I must needs own you say some plausible things, 
as a man of argument will never fail to do in vindication of his 

9. But, to deal plainly, I must tell you, once for all, that you may 
question and answer, illustrate, and enlarge for ever, without 
being able to convince me that the Christian religion is of 
Divine revelation. I have said several things, and have many 
more to say, which, believe me, have weight not only with 

55 Added in second edition, and omitted afterwards. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 239 

myself, but with many great men my very good friends, and will 
have weight whatever Euphranor can say to the contrary. 

Euph. O Alciphron ! I envy you the happiness of such acquaint- 
ance. But, as my lot, fallen in this remote corner, deprives me 
of that advantage, I am obliged to make the most of this oppor- 
tunity which you and Lysicles have put into my hands. I con- 
sider you as two able chirurgcons, and you were pleased to consider 
me as a patient, whose cure you have generously undertaken. 
Now, a patient must have full liberty to explain his case, and 
tell all his symptoms, the concealing or palliating of which might 
prevent a perfect cure. You will be pleased therefore to under- 
stand me, not as objecting to, or arguing against, either your skill 
or medicines, but only as setting forth my own case, and the effects 
they have upon me. Say, Alciphron, did you not give me to under- 
stand that you would extirpate my prejudices ? 

Ale. It is true : a good physician eradicates every fibre of the 
disease. Come, you shall have a patient hearing. 

Euph. Pray, was it not the opinion of Plato, that God inspired 
particular men, as organs or trumpets, to proclaim and sound 
forth his oracles to the world 56 ? And was not the same opinion 
also embraced by others the greatest writers of antiquity ? 

Cri. Socrates seems to have thought that all true poets spoke 
by inspiration and Tully, that there was no extraordinary 
genius without it. This hath made some of our affected free- 
thinkers attempt to pass themselves upon the world for en- 

Ale. What would you infer from all this ? 

Euph. I would infer that inspiration should seem nothing 
impossible or absurd, but rather agreeable to the light of reason 
and the notions of mankind. And this, I suppose, you will 
acknowledge, having made it an objection against a particular 
revelation, that there are so many pretences to it throughout 
the world. 

Ale. O Euphranor ! he who looks into the bottom of things, and 
resolves them into their first principles, is not easily amused with 
words. The word inspiration sounds indeed big, but let us, if 

56 [Plato in lone.] AUTHOR. In the 7o, operations of art are unconsciously ex- 
poetic inspiration is treated of, as that pressed, under the impulse of the Muse, 
in which Divine principles of science and 

240 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

you please, take an original view of the thing signified by it. 
To Inspire is a word borrowed from the Latin, and, strictly taken, 
means no more than to breathe or blow in j nothing, therefore, can 
be inspired but what can be blown or breathed ; and nothing can be 
so but wind or vapour, which indeed may fill or puff up men with 
fanatical and hypochondriacal ravings. This sort of inspiration I 
very readily admit. 

Euph. What you say is subtle, and I know not what effect it 
might have upon me, if your profound discourse did not hinder its 
own operation. 

Ale. How so ? 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, do you discourse, or do you not ? To 
me it seems that you discourse admirably. 

Ale. Be that as it will, it is certain I discourse. 

Euph. But, when I endeavour to look into the bottom of things, 
behold! a scruple riseth in my mind how this can be; for, to 
discourse is a word of Latin derivation, which originally signifies to 
run about j and a man cannot run about but he must change place, 
and move his legs ; so long, therefore, as you sit on this bench, you 
cannot be said to discourse. Solve me this difficulty, and then 
perhaps I may be able to solve yours. 

Ale. You are to know, that discourse is a word borrowed 
from sensible things, to express an invisible action of the mind, 
reasoning or inferring one thing from another ; and, in this 
translated sense, we may be said to discourse though we sit 

Euph. And may we not as well conceive that the term In- 
spiration might be borrowed from sensible things, to denote an 
action of God, in an extraordinary manner, influencing, exciting, 
and enlightening the mind of a prophet or an apostle ? who, in 
this secondary, figurative, and translated sense, may truly be said 
to be inspired, though there should be nothing in the case of that 
wind or vapour implied in the original sense of the word ? It 
seems to me that we may, by looking into our own minds, plainly 
perceive certain instincts, impulses, and tendencies, which, at 
proper periods and occasions, spring up unaccountably in the soul 
of man. We observe very visible signs of the same in all other 
animals. And, these things being ordinary and natural, what 
hinders but we may conceive it possible for the human mind, 

The Sixth Dialogue. 241 

upon an extraordinary account, to be moved in an extraordinary 
manner, and its faculties stirred up and actuated by supernatural 
power ? That there are, and have been, and are likely to be, 
wild visions and hypochondriacal ravings, nobody can deny ; but, 
to infer from thence that there are no true inspirations would be 
too like concluding, that some men are not in their senses, because 
other men are fools. And, though I am no prophet, and conse- 
quently cannot pretend to a clear notion of this matter, yet I shall 
not therefore take upon me to deny but a true prophet or inspired 
person might have had a certain means of discerning between 
Divine inspiration and hypochondriacal fancy, as you can between 
sleeping and waking, till you have proved the contrary. You may 
meet in the book of Jeremiah with this passage, c The prophet that 
hath a dream let. him tell a dream : and he that hath my word, let 
him speak my word faithfully : what is the chaff to the wheat, 
saith the Lord ? Is not my word like as a fire, saith the Lord, 
and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces 5 7 ?' You 
see here a distinction made between wheat and chaff, true and 
spurious, with the mighty force and power of the former. But I 
beg pardon for quoting Scripture to you. I make my appeal to the 
general sense of mankind, and the opinion of the wisest heathens, 
which seems sufficient to conclude Divine inspiration possible, if 
not probable at least till you prove the contrary. 

10. Ale. The possibility of inspirations and revelations I do not 
think it necessary to deny. Make the best you can of this con- 

Euph. Now what is allowed possible we may suppose in fact. 

Ale. We may. 

Euph. Let us then suppose that God had been pleased to make 
a revelation to men j and that He inspired some as a means to 
instruct others. Having supposed this, can you deny that their 
inspired discourses and revelations might have been committed to 
writing, or that, being written, after a long tract of time they, 
might become in several places obscure ; that some of them might 
even originally have been less clear than others, or that they might 
suffer some alteration by frequent transcribing, as other writings 

r>7 [Jer. xxiii. 28, 29.] AUTHOR. 

242 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

are known to have done ? Is it not even very probable that all 
these things would happen ? 

Ale. I grant it. 

Euph. And, granting this, with what pretence can you reject the 
Holy Scriptures as not being Divine, upon the account of such 
signs or marks as you acknowledge would probably attend a 
Divine revelation transmitted down to us through so many 

Ale. But allowing all that in reason you can desire, and grant- 
ing that this may account for some obscurity, may reconcile some 
small differences, or satisfy us how some difficulties might arise, 
by inserting, omitting, or changing, here and there a letter, a 
word, or perhaps a sentence ; yet these are but small matters, in 
respect of the much more considerable and weighty objections 
I could produce against the confessed doctrines, or subject-matter 
of those writings. Let us see what is contained in these sacred 
books, and then judge whether it is probable or possible such reve- 
lations should ever have been made by God. Now, I defy the wit 
of man to contrive anything more extravagant than the accounts 
we there find of apparitions, devils, miracles, God manifest in the 
flesh, regeneration, grace, self-denial, resurrection of the dead, and 
such-like <egri somnla: things so odd, unaccountable, and remote 
from the apprehension of mankind, you may as soon wash a blacka- 
more white as clear them of absurdity. No critical skill can 
justify them, no tradition recommend them, I will not say fpr 
Divine revelations, but even for the inventions of men of sense. 

Euph. I had always a great opinion of your sagacity, but now, 
Alciphron, I consider you as something more than man; else 
how should it be possible for you to know what or how far it may 
be proper for God to reveal ? Methinks it may consist with all 
due deference to the greatest of human understandings, to suppose 
them ignorant of many things, which are not suited to their facul- 
ties, or lie out of their reach. Even the counsels of princes lie 
often beyond the ken of their subjects, who can only know so 
much as is revealed by those at the helm; and are often un- 
qualified to judge of the usefulness and tendency even of that, till 
in due time the scheme unfolds, and is accounted for by suc- 
ceeding events. That many points contained in Holy Scripture 
are remote from the common apprehensions of mankind cannot be 

The Sixth Dialogue. 243 

denied. But I do not see that it follows from thence they are 
not of Divine revelation. On the contrary, should it not seem 
reasonable to suppose that a revelation from God should contain 
something different in kind, or more excellent in degree, than what 
lay open to the common sense of men, or could even be discovered 
by the most sagacious philosopher ? Accounts of separate spirits, 
good or bad, prophecies, miracles, and such things, are un- 
doubtedly strange ; but I would fain see how you can prove them 
impossible or absurd. 

Ale. Some things there are so evidently absurd that it would be 
almost as silly to disprove them as to believe them ; and I take 
these to be of that class. 

IT. Euph. But is it not possible some men may shew as much 
prejudice and narrowness in rejecting all such accounts as others 
might easiness and credulity in admitting them? I never durst 
make my own observation or experience the rule and measure of 
things spiritual, supernatural, or relating to another world; because 
I should think it a very bad one even for the visible and natural 
things of this. It would be judging like the Siamese, who was 
positive it did not freeze in Holland, because he had never known 
such a thing as hard water or ice in his own country 58 . I cannot 
comprehend why any one who admits the union of the soul and 
body should pronounce it impossible for the human nature to be 
united to the Divine, in a manner ineffable and incomprehensible 
by reason. Neither can I see any absurdity in admitting that 
sinful man may become regenerate, or a new creature, by the grace 
of God reclaiming him from a carnal life to a spiritual life of 
virtue and holiness. And since the being governed by sense and 
appetite is contrary to the happiness and perfection of a rational 
creature, I do not at all wonder that we are prescribed self-denial. 
As for the resurrection of the dead, I do not conceive it so very 
contrary to the analogy of nature, when I behold vegetables left 
to rot in the earth rise up again with new life and vigour, or 
a worm, to all appearance dead, change its nature, and that, which 
in its first being crawled on the earth, become a new species, and 
fly abroad with wings. And indeed, when I consider that the soul 

58 So Hume, on Miracles. 
R 2 

244 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

and body are things so very different and heterogeneous, I can see 
no reason to be positive that the one must necessarily be extin- 
guished upon the dissolution of the other ; especially since I find 
in myself a strong natural desire of immortality, and I have not 
observed that natural appetites are wont to be given in vain, or 
merely to be frustrated. Upon the whole, those points which you 
account extravagant and absurd, I dare not pronounce to be so till 
I see good reason for it. 

12. Cri. No, Alciphron, your positive airs must not pass for 
proofs ; nor will it suffice to say, things are contrary to common 
sense, to make us think they are so. By common sense^ I suppose, 
should be meant, either the general sense of mankind, or the 
improved reason of thinking men. Now, I believe that all those 
articles you have with so much capacity and fire at once summed 
up and exploded may be shewn to be not disagreeable, much less 
contrary, to common sense in one or other of these acceptations. 
That the gods might appear and converse among men and that 
the Divinity might inhabit human nature were points allowed by 
the heathens ; and for this I appeal to their poets and philosophers, 
whose testimonies are so numerous and clear that it would be an 
affront to repeat them to a man of any education. And, though 
the notion of a Devil & may not be so obvious, or so fully described, 
yet there appear plain traces of it, either from reason or tradition. 
The latter Platonists, as Porphyry and Jamblichus, are very clear 
in the point, allowing that evil demons delude and tempt, hurt 
and possess mankind. That the ancient Greeks, Chaldeans, and 
Egyptians believed both good and bad angels may be plainly 
collected from Plato, Plutarch, and the Chaldean oracles. Origen 
observes, that almost all the Gentiles, who held the being of 
demons, allowed there were bad ones 60 . There is even something 
as early as Homer, that is thought by the learned Cardinal Bessa- 
rion 6l to allude to the fall of Satan, in the account of Ate, whom 
the poet represents as cast down from heaven by Jove, and then 
wandering about the earth, doing mischief to mankind. The same 

r * The result of more recent critical exa- AUTHOR. 

mination of the history of this notion modi- 61 [In Calumniat. Platonis, lib. III. cap. 

fies what follows. 7.] AUTHOR. 

60 [Origen, lib. VII, contra Celsum.] 

The Sixth Dialogue. 245 

Ate is said by Hesiod to be the daughter of Discord: and by 
Euripides, in his Hippolytus, is mentioned as a tempter to evil. 
And it is very remarkable that Plutarch, in his book De Vitando 
JEre Alieno^ speaks, after Empedocles, of certain demons that fell 
from heaven, and were banished by God, kaipovts flerjAcmn /ecu 
ovpavo-ntTTtts. Nor is that less remarkable which is observed by 
Ficinus, from Pherecydes Syrus, that there had been a downfall of 
demons who revolted from God; and that Ophioneus (the old 
serpent) was head of that rebellious crew 6 '*. Then, as to other 
articles, let any one consider what the Pythagoreans taught of the 
purgation and Awts, or deliverance of the soul : what most philo- 
sophers, but especially the Stoics, of subduing our passions : what 
Plato and Hierocles have said of forgiving injuries: what the acute 
and sagacious Aristotle writes in his Ethics to Nichomachus, of 
the spiritual and Divine life that life which, according to him, 
is too excellent to be thought human; insomuch as man, so far 
forth as man, cannot attain to it, but only so far forth as he has 
something Divine in him : and, particularly, let him reflect on 
what Socrates taught, to wit, that virtue is not to be learned from 
men, that it is the gift of God, and that good men are not good 
by virtue of human care or diligence, OVK elvai avOpto-nCi'rjv mjue'Aeuu> 
?y ayaOoi ayaOol yiyvovrai 63 . Let any man who really thinks but 
consider what other thinking men have thought, who cannot be 
supposed prejudiced in favour of revealed religion ; and he will see 
cause, if not to think with reverence of the Christian doctrines of 
grace, self-denial, regeneration, sanctification, and the rest, even 
the most mysterious, at least to judge more modestly and warily 
than those who shall, with a confident air, pronounce them absurd, 
and repugnant to the reason of mankind. And, in regard to a 
future state, the common sense of the gentile world, modern or 
ancient, and the opinions of the wisest men of antiquity, are 
things so well known, that I need say nothing about them. To 
me it seems, the minute philosophers, when they appeal to reason 
and common sense, mean only the sense of their own party: 
a coin, how current soever among themselves, that other men 
will bring to the touchstone, and pass for no more than it is 

62 [Vide Argum. in Phaedrum Platonis.] f>3 [Vide Plat, in Protag. et alibi passim.] 


246 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Lys. Be those notions agreeable to what or whose sense they 
may, they are not agreeable to mine. And if I am thought 
ignorant for this, I pity those who think me so. 

13. I enjoy myself, and follow my own courses, without remorse 
or fear j which I should not do, if my head were filled with enthu- 
siasm; whether gentile or Christian, philosophical or revealed, it 
is all one to me. Let others know or believe what they can, and 
make the best of it ; I, for my part, am happy and safe in my 

Cri. Perhaps not so safe neither. 

Lys. Why, surely you will not pretend that ignorance is cri- 
minal ? 

Cri. Ignorance alone is not a crime. But that wilful ignorance, 
affected ignorance, ignorance from sloth, or conceited ignorance, 
is a fault, might easily be proved by the testimony of heathen 
writers ; and it needs no proof to shew that, if ignorance be our 
fault, we cannot be secure in it as an excuse. 

Lys. Honest Crito seems to hint that a man should take care to 
inform himself while alive, lest his neglect be punished when he 
is dead. Nothing is so pusillanimous and unbecoming a gentle- 
man as fear ; nor could you take a likelier course to fix and rivet a 
man of honour in guilt, than by attempting to frighten him out of 
it. This is the stale absurd stratagem of priests, and that which 
makes them and their religion more odious and contemptible to 
me than all the other articles put together. 

Cri. I would fain know why it may not be reasonable for a man 
of honour, or any man who has done amiss, to fear. Guilt is the 
natural parent of fear ; and nature is not used to make men fear 
where there is no occasion. That impious and profane men should 
expect Divine punishment doth not seem so absurd to conceive : 
and that, under this expectation, they should be uneasy and even 
afraid, how consistent soever it may or may not be with honour, I 
am sure consists with reason. 

Lys. That thing of hell and eternal punishment is the most 
absurd as well as the most disagreeable thought that ever entered 
the head of mortal man. 

Cri. But you must own that it is not an absurdity peculiar to 
Christians, since Socrates, that great free-thinker of Athens, 

The Sixth Dialogue. 247 

thought it probable there may be such a thing as impious men for 
ever punished in hell 64 . It is recorded of this same Socrates, that 
he has been often known to think for four-and-twenty hours 
together, fixed in the same posture, and wrapped up in medi- 

Lyt. Our modern free-thinkers are a more lively sort of men. 
Those old philosophers were most of them whimsical. *They had, 
in my judgment, a dry, narrow, timorous way of thinking, which 
by no means came up to the frank humour of our times. 

Cri. But I appeal to your own judgment, if a man who knows 
not the nature of the soul can be assured, by the light of reason, 
whether it is mortal or immortal ? 

An simul intereat nobiscum morte perempta, 
An tenebras orci visat vastasque lacunas ? 

Lys. But what if I know the nature of the soul ? What if I have 
been taught that whole secret by a modern free-thinker ? a man of 
science who discovered it not by a tiresome introversion of his 
faculties, not by amusing himself in a labyrinth of notions, or 
stupidly thinking for whole days and nights together, but by 
looking into things, and observing the analogy of nature. 

14. This great man is a philosopher by fire, who has made many 
processes upon vegetables. It is his opinion that men and vege- 
tables are really of the same species; that animals are moving 
vegetables, and vegetables fixed animals ; that the mouths of the 
one and the roots of the other serve to the same use, differing only 
in position; that blossoms and flowers answer to the most in- 
decent and concealed parts of the human body ; that vegetable and 
animal bodies are both alike organised, and that in both there is 
life, or a certain motion and circulation of juices through proper 
tubes or vessels. I shall never forget this able man's unfolding 
the nature of the soul in the following manner : The soul, said he, 
is that specific form or principle from whence proceed the distinct 
qualities or properties of things. Now, as vegetables are a more 
simple and less perfect compound, and consequently more easily 
analysed than animals, we will begin with the contemplation of 

64 Vide Platon. in Gorgia.] AUTHOR. keley's works to unending punishment in 
See Socrates at the end of the Gorgias. a future life. Cf. Guardian, No. 27, where 
This is the only distinct reference in Ber- Socrates is quoted. 

248 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

the souls of vegetables. Know then that the soul of any plant, 
rosemary for instance, is neither more nor less than its essential 
oil 65 . Upon this depends its peculiar fragrance, taste, and medi- 
cinal virtues, or in other words its life and operations. Separate 
or extract this essential oil by chemic art, and you get the soul of 
the plant ; what remains being a dead carcass, without any one 
property or virtue of the plant, which is preserved entire in the oil, 
a drachm whereof goes further than several pounds of the plant. 
Now this same essential oil is itself a composition of sulphur and 
salt, or of a gross unctuous substance, and a fine subtle principle 
or volatile salt imprisoned therein 65 . The volatile salt is properly 
the essence of the soul of the plant, containing all its virtue ; and 
the oil is the vehicle of this most subtle part of the soul, or that 
which fixes and individuates it. And as, upon separation of this 
oil from the plant, the plant dies, so a second death, or death of 
the soul, ensues upon the resolution of this essential oil into its 
principles; as appears by leaving it exposed for some time to the 
open air, so that the volatile salt or spirit may fly off; after which 
the oil remains dead and insipid, but without any sensible dimi- 
nution of its weight, by the loss of th it volatile essence of the 
soul, that ethereal aura, that spark of entity, which returns and 
mixes with the solar light 66 , the universal soul of the world, and 
only source of life, whether vegetable, animal, or intellectual ; 
which differ only according to the grossness or fineness of the 
vehicles, and the different textures of the natural alembics, or, in 
other words, the organized bodies where the above-mentioned 
volatile essence inhabits and is elaborated, where it acts and is 
acted upon. This chemical system lets you at once into the 
nature of the soul, and accounts for all its phenomena. In that 
compound which is called man, the soul or essential oil is what 
commonly goes by the name of animal spirit : for, you must know 
it is a point agreed by chemists, that spirits are nothing but the 

w Cf. Siris, especially sect. 8, 38, 42, 44 according to Berkeley, the instrumental 

47 59 61. cause, under Supreme Intelligence, of all 

66 Cf. Siris, e.g. sect. 43, 152, 162,193, change in the macrocosm, or mundane 

194 ; also First Letter to T P on system. 

tbe Virtues of Tar- Water, sect. 16, 17, Art's passim, with its doctrine of an ele- 

which unfold and adopt the ancient doc- mentary fire medium, or animal spirit of the 

trine, that the solar-fire, or light, may be universe, which instrumentally connects all 

jregarded as ' the animal spirit of this visible things, may be compared with this curious 

world/ diffused through the universe, and, section in Alcipbron. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 249 

more subtle oils. Now, in proportion as the essential oil of man 
is more subtle than that of other creatures, the volatile salt that 
impregnates it is more at liberty to act ; which accounts for those 
specific properties and actions of human-kind, which distinguish 
them above other creatures. Hence you may learn why, among 
the wise 6 ? ancients, salt was another name for wit, and in our 
times a dull man is said to be insipid or insulse. Aromatic oils, 
maturated by great length of time, turn to salts : this shews why 
human-kind grow wiser by age. And what I have said of the 
twofold death or dissolution, first of the compound, by separating 
the soul from the organical body, and secondly of the soul itself, 
by dividing the volatile salt from the oil, illustrates and explains 
that notion of certain ancient philosophers that, as the man was 
a compound of soul and body, so the soul was compounded of the 
mind or intellect, and its aethereal vehicle ; and that the separation 
of soul and body, or death of the man, is, after a long tract of 
time, succeeded by a second death of the soul itself, to wit, the 
separation or deliverance of the intellect from its vehicle, and 
reunion with the sun. 

Eupb. O Lysicles ! your ingenious friend has opened a new 
scene, and explained the most obscure and difficult points in the 
clearest and easiest manner. 

Lys. I must own this account of things struck my fancy. I am 
no great lover of creeds or systems ; but when a notion is reason- 
able and grounded on experience I know how to value it. 

Cri. In good earnest, Lysicles, do you believe this account to be 
true ? 

Lys. Why then in good earnest I do not know whether I do or 
no. But I can assure you the ingenious artist himself has not the 
least doubt about it. And to believe an artist in his art is a just 
maxim and a short way to science. 

Cri. But what relation hath the soul of man to chemic art ? The 
same reason that bids me trust a skilful artist in his art inclines 
me to suspect him out of his art. Men are too apt to reduce 
unknown things to the standard of what they know, and bring a 
prejudice or tincture from things they have been conversant in, to 
judge thereby of things in which they have not been conversant. 

67 Berkeley's own reverence for ancient Dial. VII., sect. 34 ; Siris, sect. 331-2, 350, 
learning grew as his life advanced. Cf. and other passages in his later works. 

250 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

\ have known a fiddler gravely teach that the soul was harmony ; a 
geometrician very positive that the soul must be extended; and 
a physician, who, having pickled half a dozen embryos, and dis- 
sected as many rats and frogs, grew conceited, and affirmed there 
was no soul at all, and that it was a vulgar error. 

Lys. My notions sit easy. I shall not engage in pedantic dis- 
putes about them. They who do not like them may leave them. 

Euph. This, I suppose, is said much like a gentleman. 

15. But pray, Lysicles, tell me whether the clergy come within 
that general rule of yours, that an artist may be trusted in his art ? 

'Lys. By no means. 

Euph. Why so ? 

Lys. Because I take myself to know as much of those matters as 
they do. 

Euph. But you allow that, in any other profession, one who had 
spent much time and pains may attain more knowledge than a 
man of equal or better parts who never made it his particular 

Lys. I do. 

Euph. And nevertheless in things religious and Divine you think 
all men equally knowing. 

Lys. I do not say all men. But I think all men of sense com- 
petent judges. 

Euph. What! are the Divine attributes and dispensations to 
mankind, the true end and happiness of rational creatures, with 
the means of improving and perfecting their beings, more easy 
and obvious points than those which make the subject of every 
common profession ? 

Lys. Perhaps not: but one thing I know, some things are so 
manifestly absurd that no authority shall make me give into them. 
For instance, if all mankind should pretend to persuade me that 
the Son of God was born upon earth in a poor family, was spit 
upon, buffeted, and crucified, lived like a beggar, and died like a 
thief, I should never believe one syllable of it. Common sense 
shews every one what figure it would be decent for an earthly 
prince or ambassador to make; and the Son of God, upon an 
embassy from heaven, must needs have made an appearance 
beyond all others of great eclat, and in all respects the very 

The Sixth Dialogue. 251 

reverse of that which Jesus Christ is reported to have made, even 
by His own historians. 

Euph. O Lysicles ! though I had ever so much mind to approve 
and applaud your ingenious reasoning, yet I dare not assent to this 
for fear of Crito. 

Lys. Why so ? 

Euph. Because he observed just now, that men judge of things 
they do not know, by prejudices from things they do know. And 
I fear he would object that you, who have been conversant in the 
grand monde y having your head filled with a notion of attendants 
and equipage and liveries, the familiar badges of human grandeur, 
are less able to judge of that which is truly Divine ; and that one 
who had seen less, and thought more, would be apt to imagine a 
pompous parade of worldly greatness not the most becoming the 
author of a spiritual religion, that was designed to wean men from 
the world, and raise them above it. 

Cri. Do you think, Lysicles, if a man should make his entrance 
into London in a rich suit of clothes, with a hundred gilt coaches, 
and a thousand laced footmen ; that this would be a more Divine 
appearance, and have more of true grandeur in it, than if he had 
power with a word to heal all manner of diseases, to raise the dead 
to life, and still the raging of the winds and the sea? 

Lys. Without all doubt it must be very agreeable to common 
sense to suppose, that he could restore others to life who could not 
save his own. You tell us, indeed, that he rose again from the 
dead : but what occasion was there for him to die, the just for the 
unjust, the Son of God for wicked men ? And why in that individual 
place ? Why at that very time above all others ? Why did he not 
make his appearance earlier, and preach in all parts of the world, 
that the benefit might have been more extensive [ 6H and equal]? 
Account for all these points, and reconcile them, if you can, to 
the common notions and plain sense of mankind. 

Cri. And what if those, as well as many other points, should lie 
out of the road that we are acquainted with ; must we therefore 
explode them, and make it a rule to condemn every proceeding as 
senseless that doth not square with the vulgar sense of man? 
[ 69 That, indeed, which evidently contradicts sense and reason you 

68 Added in second edition, and afterwards omitted. 

69 Ibid. 

252 Alciphron, or the Mimite Philosopher: 

have a right to disbelieve. And when you are unjustly treated you 
have the same right to complain. But I think you should dis- 
tinguish between matter of debt and matter of favour. Thjus 
much is observed in all intercourse between man and man ; 
wherein acts of mere benevolence are never insisted on, or 
examined and measured with the same accurate line as matters of 
justice. Who but a minute philosopher would, upon a gratui- 
tous distribution of favours, inquire, why at this time, and not 
before ? why to these persons, and not to others ? Various are the 
natural abilities and opportunities of human-kind. How wide 
a difference is there in respect of the law of nature between one 
of our stupid ploughmen and a minute philosopher ! between a 
Laplander and an Athenian! That conduct, therefore, which 
seems to you partial and unequal may be found as well in the 
dispensation of natural religion as of revealed. And, if so, why 
it should be made an objection against the one more than the 
other, I leave you to account.] If the precepts and certain 
primary tenets of religion appear in the eye of reason good 
and useful; and if they are also found to be so by their effects; 
we may, for the sake of them, admit certain other points 
or doctrines recommended with them to have a good ten- 
dency, to be right and true, although we cannot discern their 
goodness or truth by the mere light of human reason, which may 
well be supposed an insufficient judge of the proceedings, counsels, 
and designs of Providence and this sufficeth to make our convic- 
tion reasonable. 

1 6. It is an allowed point that no man can judge of this or that 
part of a machine taken by itself, without knowing the whole, the 
mutual relation or dependence of its parts, and the end for which 
it was made 70 . And, as this is a point acknowledged in corporeal 
and natural things, ought we not, by a parity of reason, to suspend 
our judgment of a single unaccountable part of the Divine economy^ 
till we are more fully acquainted with the moral system, or world 
of spirits, and are let into the designs of God's Providence, and 
have an extensive view of His dispensations past, present, and 
future? Alas! Lysicles, what do you know even of yourself, 

70 So Butler's Analogy, pt. I. ch. 7. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 253 

whence you come, what you are, or whither you are going ? To 
me it seems that a minute philosopher is like a conceited 
spectator, who never looked behind the scenes, and yet would 
judge of the machinery ; who, from a transient glimpse of a part 
only of some one scene, would take upon him to censure the plot 
of a play. 

Lys. As to the plot I will not say j but in half a scene a man 
may judge of an absurd actor. With what colour or pretext can 
you justify the vindictive, froward, whimsical behaviour of some 
inspired teachers or prophets ? Particulars that serve neither for 
profit nor pleasure I make a shift to forget; but in general the 
truth of this charge I do very well remember. 

CrL You need be at no pains to prove a point I shall neither 
justify nor deny. That there have been human passions, in- 
firmities, and defects, in persons inspired by God, I freely own; 
nay, that very wicked men have been inspired, as Balaam for 
instance and Caiaphas, cannot be denied. But what will you infer 
from thence ? Can you prove it impossible that a weak or sinful 
man should become an instrument of the Spirit of God, for con- 
veying His purpose to other sinners, or that Divine light may 
not, as well as the light of the sun, shine on a foul vessel without 
polluting its rays ? 

Lys. To make short work, the right way would be to put out 
our eyes? 1 , and not judge at all. 

Cri. I do not say so ; but I think it would be right, if some 
sanguine persons upon certain points suspected their own judg- 

Ale. But the very things said to be inspired, taken by them- 
selves and in their own nature, are sometimes so wrong, to say 
no worse, that a man may pronounce them not to be Divine at 
first sight y without troubling his head about the system of Provi- 
dence or connexion of events as one may say that grass is green 
without knowing or considering how it grows, what uses it is 
subservient to, or how it is connected with the mundane system. 
Thus, for instance, the spoiling of the Egyptians, and the extirpa- 

71 ' He that takes away reason, to make the better to receive the remote light of an 

way for revelation, puts out the light of invisible star by a telescope.' Locke, Essay, 

both ; and does muchwhat the same as if bk. IV. ch. 19, 4. 
he would persuade a man to put out his eyes 

254 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

tion of the Canaanites, every one at first glance sees to be cruel 
and unjust, and may therefore, without deliberating, pronounce 
them unworthy of God. 

Cri. But, Alciphron, to judge rightly of these things, may it not 
be proper to consider how long the Israelites had wrought under 
those severe task-masters of Egypt, what injuries and hardships 
they had sustained from them, what crimes and abominations the 
Canaanites had been guilty of, what right God hath to dispose of 
the things of this world, to punish delinquents, and to appoint 
both the manner and the instruments of His justice ? Man, who 
has not such right over his fellow-creatures, who is himself a 
fellow-sinner with them, who is liable to error as well as passion, 
whose views are imperfect, who is governed more by prejudice 
than the truth of things, may not improbably deceive himself, 
when he sets up for a judge of the proceedings of the holy, 
omniscient, impassive Creator and Governor of all things. 

17. Ale. Believe me, Crito, men are never so industrious to 
deceive themselves, as when they engage to defend their pre- 
judices. You would fain reason us out of all use of our reason. 
Can anything be more irrational ? To forbid us to reason on 
the Divine dispensations is to suppose they will not bear the 
test of reason ; or, in other words, that God acts without reason, 
which ought not to be admitted, no, not in any single instance. 
For if in one, why not in another ? Whoever, therefore, allows a 
God must allow that he always acts reasonably. I will not there- 
fore attribute to him actions and proceedings that are unreason- 
able. He hath given me reason to judge withal; and I will 
judge by that unerring light, lighted from the universal lamp of 

Cri O Alciphron ! as I frankly own the common remark to 
be true that when a man is against reason, it is a shrewd sign 
reason is against him ; so 1 should never go about to dissuade any 
one, much less one who so well knew the value of it, from using 
that noble talent. On the contrary, upon all subjects of moment, 
in my opinion, a man ought to use his reason : but then, whether 
it may not be reasonable to use it with some deference to superior 
reason, it will not perhaps be amiss to consider. [72 He who hath 

72 Added in second edition, and afterwards omitted. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 255 

an exact view of the measure, and of the thing to be measured, 
if he applies the one to the other, may, I grant, measure exactly. 
But he who undertakes to measure, without knowing either, can 
be no more exact than he is modest. It may not, nevertheless, 
be impossible to find a man who, having neither an abstract idea 
of moral fitness, nor an adequate idea of the Divine economy, 
shall yet pretend to measure the one by the other.] 

Ale. It must surely derogate from the wisdom of God, to 
suppose His conduct cannot bear being inspected, not even by 
the twilight of human reason. 

Eufh. You allow, then, God to be wise ? 

Ale. I do. 

Euph. What ! infinitely wise ? 

Ale. Even infinitely. 

Euph. His wisdom, then, far exceeds that of man ? 

Ale. Vastly. 

Euph. Probably more than the wisdom of man that of a child ? 

Ale. Without all question. 

Euph. What think you, Alciphron, must not the conduct of a 
parent seem very unaccountable to a child, when its inclinations 
are thwarted, when it is put to learn the letters, when it is obliged 
to swallow bitter physic, to part with what it likes, and to suffer 
and do, and see, many things done contrary to its own judgment, 
however reasonable or agreeable to that of others ? 

Ale. This I grant. 

Euph. Will it not therefore follow from hence, by a parity of 
reason, that the little child, man, when it takes upon it to judge 
of the schemes of parental Providence ; and, a thing of yesterday, 
to criticise the economy of the Ancient of Days j will it not 
follow, I say, that such a judge, of such matters, must be apt to 
make very erroneous judgments ? esteeming those things in them- 
selves unaccountable, which he cannot account for, and concluding 
of some certain points, from an appearance of arbitrary carriage 
towards him, which is suited to his infancy and ignorance, that 
they are in themselves capricious or absurd, and cannot proceed 
from a wise, just, and benevolent God. This single consideration, 
if duly attended to, would, I verily think, put an end to many 
conceited reasonings against revealed religion. 

Ale. You would have us then conclude, that things, to our 

256 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

wisdom unaccountable, may nevertheless proceed from an abyss 
of wisdom which our line cannot fathom; and that prospects 
viewed but in part, and by the broken, tinged light of our intellects, 
though to us they may seem disproportionate and monstrous, may 
nevertheless appear quite otherwise to another eye, and in a 
different situation : in a word, that as human wisdom is but 
childish folly, in respect of the Divine, so the wisdom of God may 
sometimes seem foolishness to man. 

1 8. Euph. 1 would not have you make these conclusions, unless 
in reason you ought to make them : but, if they are reasonable, 
why should you not make them ? 

Ale. Some things may seem reasonable at one time and not at 
another : and I take this very apology you make, for credulity and 
superstition, to be one of those things. When I view it in its 
principles, it seems naturally to follow from just concessions ; but, 
when I consider its consequences, I cannot agree to it. A man 
had as good abdicate his nature as disclaim the use of reason. 
A doctrine is unaccountable ; therefore it must be Divine ! 

Euph. Credulity and superstition are qualities so disagreeable 
and degrading to human nature, so surely an effect of weakness, 
and so frequently a cause of wickedness, that 1 should be very 
much surprised to find a just course of reasoning lead to them. 
I can never think that reason is a blind guide to folly, or that 
there is any connexion between truth and falsehood, no more than 
I can think a thing's being unaccountable a proof that it is Divine. 
Though, at the same time, I cannot help acknowledging, it follows 
from your own avowed principles, that a thing's being unaccount- 
able, or incomprehensible to our reason, is no sure argument to 
conclude it is not Divine; especially when there are collateral 
proofs of its being so. A child is influenced by the many sensible 
effects it hath felt of paternal love and care and superior wis- 
dom, to believe and do several things with an implicit faith and 
obedience: and if we, in the same manner, from the truth and 
reasonableness which we plainly see in so many points within our 
cognizance, and the advantages which we experience from the 
seed of the gospel sown in good ground, were disposed to an 
implicit belief of certain other points, relating to schemes we do 
not know, or subjects to which our talents are perhaps dispro- 

The Sixth Dialogue. 257 

portionate, I am tempted to think it might become our duty, 
without dishonouring our reason; which is never so much dis- 
honoured as when it is foiled, and never in more danger of being 
foiled than by judging where it hath neither means nor right to 

Lys. I would give a good deal to see that ingenious gamester 
Glaucus have the handling of Euphranor one night at our club. 
I own he is a peg too high for me in some of his notions. But 
then he is admirable at vindicating human reason against the 
impositions of priestcraft. 

19. Ale. He would undertake to make it as clear as daylight, 
that there was nothing worth a straw in Christianity, but what 
every one knew, or might know, as well without as with it, before 
as since Jesus Christ. 

Cri. That great man, it seems, teacheth, that common sense 
alone is the pole-star by which mankind ought to steer ; and 
that what is called revelation must be ridiculous, because it 
is unnecessary and useless, the natural talents of every man 
being sufficient to make him happy, good, and wise, without 
any further correspondence from heaven either for light or aid 7 3. 

Euph. I have already acknowledged how sensible I am, that 
my situation in this obscure corner of the country deprives me 
of many advantages, to be had from the conversation of ingenious 
men in town. To make myself some amends, I am obliged to 
converse with the dead and my own thoughts, which last I know 
are of little weight against the authority of Glaucus, or such-like 
great men in the minute philosophy. But what shall we say to 
Socrates ? 3 , for he too was of an opinion very different from that 
ascribed to Glaucus ? 

Ale. For the present we need not insist on authorities, ancient 
or modern, or inquire which was tlie greater man, Socrates or 
Glaucus. Though, methinks, for so much as authority can signify, 
the present times, gray and hoary with age and experience, have a 
manifest advantage over those that are falsely called ancientf 4 . But, 

7d So Collins; and also Tyndall, in his. For Socrates, see, among other places, the 

Christianity as old Vts the Creation, first pub- closing passages of the Meno, and in the 

lished in 1730, when Berkeley was in Rhode . Symposium. 

Island. The latter part of Butler's Analogy 7 * So Bacon, in various passages, 
was apparently directed against Tyndall. 


258 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

not to dwell on authorities, I tell you in plain English, Euphranor, 
we do not want your revelations ; and that for this plain reason, 
those that are clear everybody knew before, and those that are 
obscure nobody is the better for. 

Eufh. [? 5 As it is impossible that a man should believe the 
practic principles of the Christian religion, and not be the better 
for them; so, it is evident that those principles may be much 
more easily taught as points of faith than demonstrated or dis- 
covered as points of science. This I call evident, because it 
is a plain fact. Since we daily see that many are instructed in 
matters of faith ; that few are taught by scientific demonstration j 
and that there are still fewer who can discover truth for them- 
selves. Did minute philosophers but reflect, how rarely men are 
swayed or governed by mere ratiocination, and how often by 
faith, in the natural or civil concerns of the world! how little 
they know, and how much they believe ! How uncommon is 
it to meet with a man who argues justly, who is in truth a master 
of reason, or walks by that rule ! How much better (as the world 
goes) men are qualified to judge of facts than of reasonings, to 
receive truth upon testimony than to deduce it from principles ! 
How general a spirit of trust or reliance runs through the whole 
system of life and opinion ! And at the same time how seldom 
the dry light of unprejudiced nature is followed or to be found ! 
I say did our thinking men but bethink themselves of these 
things, they would perhaps find it difficult to assign a good reason 
why faith, which hath so great a share in everything else, should 
yet have none in religion. But to come more closely to your 
point.] Whether it was possible for mankind to have known 
all parts of the Christian religion, besides mysteries and positive 
institutions, is not the question between us ; and that they actually 
did not know them is too plain to be denied. This, perhaps, was 
for want of making a due use of reason. But, as to the usefulness 
of revelation, it seems much the same thing whether they could 
not know, or would not be at the pains to know, the doctrines 
revealed. And, as for those doctrines which were too obscure to 
penetrate, or too sublime to reach, by natural reason ; how far 
mankind may be the better for them is more, I had almost said, 
than even you or Glaucus can tell. 

75 Introduced in second edition, and afterwards omitted in posthumous editions. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 259 

20. Ale. But, whatever may be pretended as to obscure doctrines 
and dispensations, all this hath nothing to do with prophecies ; 
which, being altogether relative to mankind, and the events of this 
world, to which our faculties are surely well enough proportioned, 
one might expect should be very clear, and such as might inform 
instead of pulling us. 

Euph. And yet it must be allowed that, as some prophecies are 
clear, there are others very obscure : but, left to myself, I doubt 
I should never have inferred from thence that they were not 
Divine. In my own way of thinking, I should have been apt 
to conclude that the prophecies we understand are a proof for 
inspiration; but that those we do not understand are no proof 
against it. Inasmuch as for the latter our ignorance, or the reserve 
of the Holy Spirit may account; but for the other nothing, for 
aught that I see, can account but inspiration. 

Ak. Now I know several sagacious men who conclude this 
very differently from you, to wit, that the one sort of prophecies 
is nonsense, and the other contrived after the events 76. Behold 
the difference between a man of free thought and one of narrow 
principles ! 

Euph. It seems then they reject the Revelations because they are 
obscure, and Daniel's prophecies because they are clear. 

Ah. Either way a man of sense sees cause to suspect there has 
been foul play. 

Euph. Your men of sense are, it seems, hard to please. 

Ale. Our philosophers are men of piercing eyes. 

Euph. I suppose such men never make transient judgments 
from transient views, but always establish fixed conclusions upon 
a thorough inspection of things. For my own part, I dare not 
engage with a man who has examined those points so nicely as 
it may be presumed you have done; but I could name some 
eminent writers of our own, now living, whose books on the 
subject of prophecy have given great satisfaction to gentlemen 
who pass for men of sense and learning here in the country 77. 

76 Much attention was drawn to the considered (1727). In the second of these 
biblical prophecies about the time this was works, the antiquity and authority of the 
written, among others, by Collins, in his book of Daniel is a special object of as- 
sceptical Discourse on the Grounds and sault. 

Reasons of the Christian Religion (1724), 77 e. g. Bishop Chandler's Defence of Chris- 
said in his Scheme of Literal Prophecy tianity, from the Prophecies of the Old 

S 2 

260 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

Ale. You must know, Euphranor, I am not at leisure to peruse 
the learned writings of divines, on a subject which a man may see 
through with half an eye. To me it is sufficient, that the point 
itself is odd, and out of the road of nature 78. For the rest, I leave 
them to dispute and settle among themselves, where to fix the 
precise time when the sceptre departed from Judah ; or whether 
in Daniel's prophecy of the Messiah we should compute by the 
Chaldean or the Julian year. My only conclusion concerning all 
such matters is, that I will never trouble myself about them/ 8 . 

Euph. To an extraordinary genius, who sees things with half 
an eye, I know not what to say. But for the rest of mankind, one 
would think it very rash in them to conclude, without much and 
exact inquiry, on the unsafe side of a question which concerns 
their chief interest. 

Ale. Mark it well : a true genius in pursuit of truth makes swift 
advances on the wings of general maxims, while little minds 
creep and grovel amidst mean particularities. I lay it down for a 
certain truth that by the fallacious arts of logic and criticism, 
straining and forcing, palliating, patching, and distinguishing, a 
man may justify or make out anything ; and this remark, with 
one or two about prejudice, saves me a world of trouble. 

Euph. You, Alciphron, who soar sublime on strong and free 
opinions, vouchsafe to lend a helping hand to those whom you 
behold entangled in the birdlime of prejudice. For my part, I 
find it very possible to suppose prophecy may be Divine, although 
there should be some obscurity at this distance, with respect to 
dates of time or kinds of years. You yourself own revelation 
possible : and, allowing this, I can very easily conceive it may be 
odd, and out of the road of nature. I can, without amazement, 
meet in Holy Scripture divers prophecies, whereof I do not see 
the completion, divers texts I do not understand, divers mysteries 
above my comprehension, and ways of God to me unaccountable. 
Why may not some prophecies relate to parts of history I am 
not well enough acquainted with, or to events not yet come to 
pass ? It seems to me that prophecies unfathomed by the hearer, 

Testament (1725), and his Vindication of lock was one of Berkeley's friends and 

the Defence (1728); Dr. Samuel Chandler's admirers, and is said to have recommended 

Vindication of the Christian Religion (17 2 5); Alcipbron to Queen Caroline, when the 

Bishop Sherlock on the Use and Intent of author's sagacity was impugned 

Prophecy (1727); with many others. Sher- So Hume afterwards. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 261 

or even the speaker himself, have been afterward verified and 
understood in the event; and it is one of my maxims that, 
'what hath been may be. Though I rub mine eyes, and do my utmost 
to extricate myself from prejudice, yet it still seems very possible 
to me that, what I do not, a more acute, more attentive, or more 
learned man, may understand. At least thus much is plain : the 
difficulty of some points or passages doth not hinder the clearness 
of others ; and those parts of Scripture which we cannot interpret, 
we are not bound to know the sense of. What evil or what 
inconvenience, if we cannot comprehend what we are not obliged 
to comprehend, or if we cannot account for those things which 
it doth not belong to us to account for? Scriptures not under- 
stood, at one time, or by one person, may be understood at 
another time, or by other persons. May we not perceive, by 
retrospect on what is past, a certain progress from darker to 
lighter, in the series of the Divine economy towards man ? And 
may not future events clear up such points as at present exercise 
the faith of believers? Now, I cannot help thinking (such is 
the force either of truth or prejudice) that in all this there is 
nothing strained or forced, or which is not reasonable or natural 
to suppose. 

2i. Ale. Well, Euphranor, I will lend you a helping hand, 
since you desire it, but think fit to alter my method. For, you 
must know, the main points of Christian belief have been infused 
so early, and inculcated so often by nurses, pedagogues, and 
priests, that, be the proofs ever so plain, it is a hard matter to 
convince a mind, thus tinctured and stained, by arguing against 
reyealed religion from its internal characters. I shall therefore 
set myself to consider things in another light, and examine 
your religion by certain external characters or circumstantials, 
comparing the system of revelation with collateral accounts of 
ancient heathen writers, and shewing how ill it consists with 
them. Know then that, the Christian revelation supposing the 
Jewish, it follows that, if the Jewish be destroyed, the Christian 
must of course fall to the ground. Now, to make short work, 
I shall attack this Jewish revelation in its head. Tell me, are 
we not obliged, if we believe the Mosaic account of things, to 
hold the world was created not quite six thousand years ago ? 

262 Alciphron y or the Minute Philosopher: 

Euph. I grant we are 79. 

Ale. What will you say now, if other ancient records carry 
up the history of the world many thousand years beyond this 
period? What if the Egyptians and Chinese have accounts 
extending to thirty or forty thousand years ? What if the former 
of these nations have observed twelve hundred eclipses, during the 
space of forty-eight thousand years, before the time of Alexander 
the Great ? What if the Chinese have also many observations 
antecedent to the Jewish account of the creation ? What if the 
Chaldeans had been observing the stars for above four hundred 
thousand years ? And what shall we say if we have successions of 
kings and their reigns, marked for several thousand years before 
the beginning of the world, assigned by Moses? Shall we reject 
the accounts and records of all other nations, the most famous, 
ancient, and learned in the world, and preserve a blind reverence 
for the legislator of the Jews ? 

Eufh. And pray, if they deserve to be rejected, why should we 
not reject them? What if those monstrous chronologies contain 
nothing but names without actions, and manifest fables ? What if 
those pretended observations of Egyptians and Chaldeans were 
unknown or unregarded by ancient astronomers? What if the 
Jesuits have shewn the inconsistency of the like Chinese pre- 
tensions with the truth of the Ephemerides ? What if the most 
ancient Chinese observations allowed to be authentic are those 
of two fixed stars, one in the winter solstice, the other in the 
vernal equinox, in the reign of their king Yao, which was since 
the flood ao? 

Ale. You must give me leave to observe, the Romish mis- 
sionaries are of small credit in this point. 

Euph. But what knowledge have we, or can we have, of those 
Chinese affairs, but by their means ? The same persons that tell 
us of these accounts refute them : if we reject their authority in 
one case, what right have we to build upon it in another ? 

Ale. When I consider that the Chinese have annals of more 

70 The revolution in the habitual cos- 80 [Bianchini, Histor, Univers. cap. 17.] 

mical conceptions since Berkeley wrote is AUTHOR. This learned Italian, born in 

here apparent, as well as in biblical exegesis. 1662, formed the plan of a Universal 

But our faith in the essential truth of Chris- History, founded on documentary and monu- 

tianity is not now dependent upon the acci- mental materials supplied in part by Jesuit 

dents of man's knowledge of the history of missionaries. The first part appeared at 

this globe, or upon physical discoveries. Rome in 1697. Bianchini died in 1729. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 263 

than forty thousand years, and that they are a learned, ingenious, 
and acute people, very curious, and addicted to arts and sciences, 
I profess I cannot help paying some regard to their accounts of 

Eufh. Whatever advantage their situation and political maxims 
may have given them, it doth not appear they are so learned or so 
acute in point of science as the Europeans. The general character 
of the Chinese, if we may believe Trigaltius and other writers, is, 
that they are men of a trifling and credulous curiosity., addicted to 
search after the philosopher's stone, and a medicine to make men 
immortal, to astrology, fortune-telling, and presages of all kinds. 
Their ignorance in nature and mathematics is evident, from the 
great hand the Jesuits make of that kind of knowledge among 
them. But what shall we think of those extraordinary annals, if 
the very Chinese themselves give no credit to them for more than 
three thousand years before Jesus Christ ? if they do not pretend 
to have begun to write history above four thousand years ago? 
and if the oldest books they have now extant, in an intelligible 
character, are not above two thousand years old? One would 
think a man of your sagacity, so apt to suspect everything out of 
the common road of nature, should not, without the clearest proof, 
admit those annals for authentic, which record such strange things 
as the sun's not setting for ten days, and gold raining three days 
together. Tell me, Alciphron, can you really believe these things 
without inquiring by what means the tradition was preserved, 
through what hands it passed, or what reception it met with, or 
who first committed it to writing ? 

Ale. To omit the Chinese and their story, it will serve my 
purpose as well to build on the authority of Manetho 81 , that learned 
Egyptian priest, who had such opportunities of searching into the 
most ancient accounts of time, and copying into his dynasties the 
most venerable and authentic records inscribed on the pillars of 

Eufh. Pray, Alciphron, where were those chronological pillars 
to be seen ? 

Ale. In the Seriadical land. 

81 The most recent researches of Bockh, those of Herodotus, are confirmed by 
Bunsen, and others have tended to restore modern archaeology, 
the credit of Manetho, whose annals, like 

264 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Euph. And where is that country ? 

Ale. I don't know. 

Euph. How were those records preserved for so many ages down 
to the time of this Hermes, who is said to have been the first 
inventor of letters ? 

Ale. I do not know. 

Euph. Did any other writers, before or since Manetho, pretend 
to have seen, or transcribed, or known anything about these 
pillars ? 

Ale. Not that I know. 

Euph. Or about the place where they are said to have been ? 

Ale. If they did, it is more than I know. 

Euph. Do the Greek authors that went into Egypt, and 
consulted the Egyptian priests, agree with these accounts of 
Manetho ? 

Ale. Suppose they do not. 

Euph. Doth Diodorus, who lived since Manetho, follow, cite, or 
so much as mention this same Manetho ? 

Ale. What will you infer from all this ? 

Euph. If I did not know you and your principles, and how 
vigilantly you guard against imposture, I should infer that you 
were a very credulous man. For, what can we call it but credulity 
to believe most incredible things on most slender authority, such 
as fragments of an obscure writer, disagreeing with all other 
historians, supported by an obscure authority of Hermes' pillars, 
for which you must take his word, and which contain things so 
improbable as successions of gods and demi-gods, for many 
thousand years, Vulcan alone having reigned nine thousand ? 
There is little in these venerable dynasties of Manetho besides 
names and numbers; and yet in that little we meet with very 
strange things, that would be thought romantic in another writer : 
for instance, the Nile overflowing with honey, the moon grown 
bigger, a speaking lamb, seventy kings who reigned as many days 
one after another, a king a day 82 . If you are known, Alciphron, to 
give credit to these things, I fear you will lose the honour of being 
thought incredulous. 

Ale. And yet these ridiculous fragments, as you would represent 

82 [Seal. Can. Isag. lib. II.] AUTHOR. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 265 

them, have been thought worth the pains and lucubrations of very 
learned men. How can you account for the work that the great 
Joseph Scaliger and Sir John Marsham^ make about them? 

Euph. I do not pretend to account for it. To see Scaliger add 
another Julian period to make room for such things as Manetho's 
dynasties, and Sir John Marsham take so much learned pains to 
piece, patch, and mend those obscure fragments, to range them in 
synchronisms, and try to adjust them with sacred chronology, or 
make them consistent with themselves and other accounts, is to 
me very strange and unaccountable. Why they, or Eusebius, 
or yourself, or any other learned man, should imagine those things 
deserve any regard I leave you to explain. 

22. Ale. After all, it is not easy to conceive what should move, 
not only Manetho, but also other Egyptian priests, long before his 
time, to set up such great pretences to antiquity, all which, how- 
ever differing from one another, agree in this, that they overthrow 
the Mosaic history. How can this be accounted for without some 
real foundation? What point of pleasure, or profit, or power 
could set men on forging successions of ancient names and 
periods of time for ages before the world began? 

Euph. Pray, Alciphron, is there anything so strange or singular 
in this vain humour of extending the antiquity of nations beyond 
the truth ? Hath it not been observed in most parts of the world ? 
Doth it not even in our own times shew itself, especially among those 
dependent and subdued people who have little else to boast of? 
To pass over others of our fellow-subjects who, in proportion as 
they are below their neighbours in wealth and power, lay claim to 
a more remote antiquity ; are not the pretensions of Irishmen in 
this way known to be very great? If I may trust my memory, 
O'Flaherty, in his Ogygia, mentions some transactions in Ireland 
before the flood. The same humour, and from the same cause, 
appears to have prevailed in Sicily, a country for some centuries 
past subject to the dominion of foreigners ; during which time the 
Sicilians have published divers fabulous accounts, concerning the 
original and antiquity of their cities, wherein they vie with each 
other. It is pretended to be proved by ancient inscriptions, whose 

83 Sir John Marsham, an Egyptian archaeologist, and one of the most eminent chrono- 
logists of the seventeenth century. 

266 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

existence or authority seems on a level with that of Hermes' 
pillars, that Palermo was founded in the days of the patriarch 
Isaac by a colony of Hebrews, Phoenicians, and Syrians ; and that 
a grandson of Esau had been governor of a tower subsisting within 
these two hundred years in that city 84 . The antiquity of Messina 
hath been carried still higher, by some who would have us think it 
was enlarged by Nimrod 85 . The like pretensions are made by 
Catania, and other towns of that island, who have found authors 
of as good credit as Manetho to support them. Now, I should be 
glad to know why the Egyptians, a subdued people, may not pro- 
bably be supposed to have invented fabulous accounts from the 
same motive, and like others valued themselves on extravagant 
pretensions to antiquity, when in all other respects they were 
so much inferior to their masters ? That people had been 
successively conquered by Ethiopians, Assyrians, Babylonians, 
Persians, and Grecians, before it appears that those wonderful 
dynasties of Manetho and the pillars of Hermes were ever heard 
of; as they had been by the two first of those nations before the 
time of Solon himself, the earliest Greek that is known to have 
consulted the priests of Egypt whose accounts were so ex- 
travagant that even the Greek historians, though unacquainted 
with Holy Scripture, were far from giving an entire credit to 
them. Herodotus, making a report upon their authority, saith, 
those to whom such things seem credible may make the best of 
them, for himself declaring that it was his purpose to write what 
he heard 86 . And both he and Diodorus do, on divers occasions, 
shew the same diffidence in the narratives of those Egyptian 
priests. And as we observed of the Egyptians, it is no less certain 
that the Phoenicians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans were each a 
conquered and reduced people, before the rest of the world 
appear to have heard anything of their pretensions to so remote 

Cri. But what occasion is there to be at any pains to account for 

84 [Fazelli, Hist. Sicul. decad. I. lib. him that he prepared materials for a natural 

VIII.]- AUTHOR. The History of Sicily by history of the island, which, with the journal 

Tomaso Fazelli, written in the fifteenth of his tour there, were lost on the passage 

century, was much esteemed by contem- to Naples. 

porary writers. Berkeley's associations with M [Reina, Notizie Istoricbe di Messina."] 

Italy and its islands appear in many of these -AUTHOR. 
references. Sicily in particular so attracted M [Herodotus in Euterpe.] AUTHOR. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 267 

the humour of fabulous writers ? Is it not sufficient to see that 
they relate absurdities; that they are unsupported by any foreign 
evidence; that they do not appear to have been in credit, even 
among their own countrymen ; and that they are inconsistent one 
with another ? That men should have the vanity to impose on the 
world by false accounts is nothing strange: it is much more so 
that, after what hath been done towards undeceiving the world by 
so many learned critics, there should be men found capable of 
being abused by those paltry scraps of Manetho, Berosus, Ctesias, 
or the like fabulous or counterfeit writers. 

Ale, Give me leave to observe, those learned critics may prove 
to be ecclesiastics, perhaps some of them papists. 

Cri. What do you think of Sir Isaac Newton, was he either a 
papist or ecclesiastic? Perhaps you may not allow him to have 
been in sagacity, or force of mind, equal to the great men of the 
minute philosophy ; but it cannot be denied that he had read and 
thought much upon the subject, and that the result of his inquiry 
was a perfect contempt of all those celebrated rivals to Moses. 

Ale. It hath been observed by ingenious men, that Sir Isaac 
Newton, though a layman, was deeply prejudiced: witness his great 
regard to the Bible. 

Cri. And the same may be said of Mr. Locke, Mr. Boyle, 
Lord Bacon, and other famous laymen, who, however knowing 
in some points, must, nevertheless, be allowed not to have attained 
that keen discernment which is the peculiar distinction of 
your sect. 

23. But perhaps there may be other reasons beside prejudice 
to incline a man to give Moses the preference ; on the truth of 
whose history the government, manners, and religion of his 
country were founded and framed; of whose history^ there 
are manifest traces in the most ancient books and traditions 
of the gentiles, particularly of the Brachmans and Persees; 
whose history is confirmed by the late invention of arts and 
sciences, the gradual peopling of the world, the very names of 
ancient nations, and even by the authority and arguments of 
that renowned philosopher Lucretius, who, on other points, is 
so much admired and followed by those of your sect. Not 
to mention, that the continual decrease of fluids, the sinking 

268 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

of hills, and the retardation 8 ? of planetary motions, afford so many 
natural proofs which shew this world had a beginning 8 ?; as the 
civil or historical proofs above mentioned do plainly point out 
this beginning to have been about the time assigned in Holy 
Scripture. After all which I beg leave to add one observation 
more. To any one who considers that, on digging into the 
earth, such quantities of shells, and, in some places, bones and 
horns of animals are found sound and entire, after having lain 
there in all probability some thousands of years ; it should seem 
probable that gems, medals, and implements in metal and stone 
might have lasted entire, buried under the ground forty or fifty 
thousand years, if the world had been so old. How comes it then 
to pass that no remains are found, no antiquities of those numerous 
ages preceding the Scripture accounts of time ; no fragments of 
buildings, no public monuments, no intaglias, cammeos, statues, 
basso-relievos, medals, inscriptions, utensils, or artificial works 
of any kind are ever discovered, which may bear testimony to 
the existence of those mighty empires, those successions of 
monarchs, heroes, and demi-gods, for so many thousand years ? 
Let us look forward and suppose ten or twenty thousand years 
to come ; during which time we will suppose that plagues, famines, 
wars, and earthquakes shall have made great havoc in the world ; 
is it not highly probable that, at the end of such a period, pillars, 
vases, and statues now in being, of granite, porphyry, or jasper 

87 'retardation/ * diminution* in the first the Principles of Natural Philosophy and 

edition. This curious passage, in proof of Religion, p. 87.) ' The active forces which 

the transient and arbitrary character of this are in the universe,' Clarke remarks, ' dimi- 

planet and solar system, was perhaps sug- nishiftg themselves so as to stand in need of 

gested by some of Newton's or Boyle's spe- new impressions, is no inconvenience, no dis- 

culations, or by those of Leibnitz. * It is order, no imperfection in the workmanship of 

evident/ says Newton, in a passage thus the universe, but is the consequence of the 

translated from his Optics, in Dr. Samuel nature of dependent things.' (pp. 85, 87.)' 

Clarke's Third Reply to Leibnitz, * that * The present frame of the solar system (for 

motion can on the whole both increase and instance) according to the present laws of 

diminish. But, because of the tenacity of motion, will in time fall into confusion ; 

fluid bodies, and the attrition of their parts, and perhaps after that will be amended, or 

and the weakness of elastic force in solid put into a new form. But this amend- 

bodies motion is, in the nature of things, ment is only relative with regard to our 

always more apt to diminish than to in- conceptions. In reality, and with regard to 

crease. . . . Since, therefore, all the various God, the present frames and the consequent 

motions that are in the world are perpetu- disorder, and the following renovation are 

ally decreasing; it is absolutely necessary, all equally parts of the design framed in 

in order to preserve and renew those motions, - God's original perfect idea.' (pp. 45, 47.) 

that we have recourse to some active prin- Cf. De Motu, sect. 19, 32, 36, and see the 

ciples.' (Correspondence between Leibnitz Protogaa of Leibnitz. Berkeley was fond of 

and Clarke, in 1715 and 1716, relating to cosmical speculations. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 269 

(stones of such hardness as we know them to have lasted two 
thousand years above ground, without any considerable alteration), 
would bear record of these and past ages? Or, that some of our cur- 
rent coins might then be dug up, or old walls, and the foundations 
of buildings shew themselves, as well as the shells and stones 
of the primeval world are preserved down to our times ? To me 
it seems to follow from these considerations, which common sense 
and experience make all men judges of, that we may see good 
reason to conclude, the world was created about the time recorded 
in Holy Scripture. And if we admit a thing so extraordinary as 
the creation of this world, it should seem that we admit some- 
thing strange, and odd, and new to human apprehension, beyond 
any other miracle whatsoever. 

24. Alciphron sat musing and made no answer. 

Whereupon Lysicles expressed himself in the following manner: 
I must own I should rather suppose with Lucretius, that the world 
was made by chance, and that men grew out of the earth, like 
pompions, than pin my faith on those wretched fabulous fragments 
of Oriental history. And as for the learned men who have taken 
pains to illustrate and piece them together, they appear to me no 
better than so many musty pedants. An ingenious free-thinker 
may perhaps now and then make some use of their lucubrations, 
and play one absurdity against another. But you are not there- 
fore to think he pays any real regard to the authority of such 
apocryphal writers, or believes one syllable of the Chinese, 
Babylonian, or Egyptian traditions. If we seem to give them 
a preference before the Bible, it is only because they are not 
established by law. This is my plain sense of the matter, and 
I dare say it is the general sense of our sect j who are too rational 
to be in earnest on such trifles, though they sometimes give 
hints of deep erudition, and put on a grave face to divert them- 
selves with bigots. 

Ale. Since Lysicles will have it so, I am content not to build 
on accounts of time preceding the Mosaic. I must nevertheless 
beg leave to observe, there is another point of a different nature, 
against which there do not lie the same exceptions, that deserves 
to be considered, and may serve our purpose as well. I presume 
it will be allowed that historians, treating of times within the 

270 Akiphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Mosaic account, ought by impartial men to be placed on the same 
foot with Moses. It may therefore be expected that those who 
pretend to vindicate his writings should reconcile them with 
parallel accounts of other authors, treating of the same times, 
things, and persons. And, if we are not attached singly to Moses, 
but take our notions from other writers, and the probability of 
things, we shall see good cause to believe the Jews were only 
a crew of leprous Egyptians, driven from their country on account 
of that loathsome distemper ; and that their religion, pretended 
to have been delivered from Heaven at Mount Sinai, was in truth 
learned in Egypt, and brought from thence. 

Cri. Not to insist on what cannot be denied, that an historian 
writing of his own times is to be believed before others who treat 
of the same subject several ages after, it seems to me that it 
is absurd to expect that we should reconcile Moses with profane 
historians, till you have first reconciled them one with another. 
In answer, therefore, to what you observe, I desire you would 
consider, in the first place, that Manetho, Chxremon, and Lysi- 
machus had published inconsistent accounts of the Jews, and 
their going forth from Egypt 88 : in the second place, that their 
language is a plain proof they were not of Egyptian, but either of 
Phoenician, of Syrian, or of Chaldean original : and, in the third 
place, that it doth not seem very probable to suppose their religion, 
the basis or fundamental principle of which was the worship of one 
supreme God, and the principal design of which was to abolish 
idolatry, could be derived from Egypt, the most idolatrous of all 
nations. It must be owned, the separate situation and institutions 
of the Jews occasioned their being treated by some foreigners with 
great ignorance and contempt of them and their original. But 
Strabo, who is allowed to have been a judicious and inquisitive 
writer, though he was not acquainted with their true history, 
makes more honourable mention of them. He relates that Moses, 
with many other worshippers of one infinite God, not approving 
the image-worship of the Egyptians and other nations, went out 
from Egypt and settled at Jerusalem, where they built a temple to 
one only God without images 89 . 

25. Ale. We who assert the cause of liberty against religion, in 

88 [Joseph. Contra Apion. lib. I.] AUTHOR. 89 [Strab. lib, XVI.] AUTHOR. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 271 

these later ages of the world, lie under great disadvantages, from the 
loss of ancient books, which cleared up many points to the eyes of 
those great men, Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian, which at a greater 
distance and with less help cannot be so easily made out by us : 
but, had we those records, I doubt not we might demolish the 
whole system at once. 

Cri. And yet I make some doubt of this ; because those 
great men, as you call them, with all those advantages, could 
not do it. 

Ale. That must needs have been owing to the dulness and 
stupidity of the world in those days, when the art of reasoning 
was not so much known and cultivated as of late. But those 
men of true genius saw through the deceit themselves, and were 
very clear in their opinion, which convinces me they had good 
reason on their side. 

CrL And yet that great man Celsus seems to have had very 
slight and inconstant notions : one while, he talks like a thorough 
Epicurean ; another, he admits miracles, prophecies, and a future 
state of rewards and punishments. What think you, Alciphron, 
is it not something capricious in so great a man, among other 
advantages which he ascribes to brutes above human -kind, to 
suppose they are magicians and prophets ; that they have a nearer 
commerce and union with the Divinity; that they know more of 
men; and that elephants, in particular, are of all others most 
religious animals and strict observers of an oath 90 . 

Ale. A great genius will be sometimes whimsical. But what 
do you say to the Emperor Julian ? was he not an extraordinary 
man ? 

Cri. He seems by his writings to have been lively and satirical. 
Further, I make no difficulty of owning that he was a generous, 
temperate, gallant, and facetious emperor. But at the same time 
it must be allowed, because his own heathen panegyrist Ammianus 
Marcellinus 91 allows it, that he was a prating, light, vain, super- 
stitious sort of man. And therefore his judgment or authority 
can be of but small weight with those who are not prejudiced 
in his favour. 

Ale. But of all the great men who wrote against revealed 

90 [Origen Contra Celsum, lib. IV.] AUTHOR. 

91 [Am. Marcellin. lib. XXV.] AUTHOR. 

272 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

religion, the greatest without question was that truly great man 
Porphyry, the loss of whose invaluable work can never be suffi- 
ciently lamented. This profound philosopher went to the bottom 
and original of things. He most learnedly confuted the Scriptures, 
shewed the absurdity of the Mosaic accounts, undermined and 
exposed the prophecies, and ridiculed allegorical interpretations 92 . 
The moderns, it must be owned, have done great things, and 
shewn themselves able men ; yet I cannot but regret the loss of 
what was done by a person of such vast abilities, and who lived so 
much nearer the fountain-head; though his authority survives his 
writings, and must still have its weight with impartial men, in 
spite of the enemies of truth. 

Cri. Porphyry, I grant, was a thorough infidel, though he appears 
by no means to have been incredulous. It seems he had a great 
opinion of wizards and necromancers, and believed the mysteries, 
miracles, and prophecies of Theurgists and Egyptian priests. He 
was far from being an enemy to obscure jargon ; and pretended to 
extraordinary ecstacies. In a word, this great man appears to 
have been as unintelligible as a schoolman, as superstitious as a 
monk, and as fanatical as any Quietist or Quaker; and, to com- 
plete his character as a minute philosopher, he was under strong 
temptations to lay violent hands on himself. We may frame a 
notion of this patriarch of infidelity by his judicious way of 
thinking upon other points as well as the Christian religion. So 
sagacious was he as to find out that the souls of insects, when 
separated from their bodies, became rational : that demons of a 
thousand shapes assist in making philtrums and charms, w. ose 
spiritual bodies are nourished and fattened by the steams of 
libations and sacrifices : that the ghosts of those who died violent 
deaths used to haunt and appear about their sepulchres. This same 
egregious philosopher adviseth a wise man not to eat flesh, lest the 
impure soul of the brute that was put to violent death should enter, 
along with the flesh, into those who eat it. He adds, as a matter 
of fact confirmed by many experiments, that those who would 
insinuate into themselves the souls of such animals as have the 

92 [Luc. Holstenius, De Vita et Scriptis the Fathers. He removed to Italy, was 

PorpbyriiJ] AUTHOR. Holstenius was an librarian of Cardinal Barbarini, annotated 

eminent German scholar of the seventeenth various ancient writers, and died at Rome 

century, who renounced Protestantism, as it in 1 66 1. 
is said, in consequence of studying Plato and 

The Sixth Dialogue. 273 

gift of foretelling things to come, need only eat a principal part, 
the heart, for instance, of a stag or a mole, and so receive the soul 
of the animal, which will prophesy in them like a god^. No 
wonder if men whose minds were preoccupied by faith and tenets 
of such a peculiar kind should be averse from the reception of 
the gospel. Upon the whole, we desire to be excused if we do 
not pay the same deference to the judgment of men that appear to 
us whimsical, superstitious, weak, and visionary, which those im- 
partial gentlemen do, who admire their talents, and are proud to 
tread in their footsteps. 

Ale. Men see things in different views: what one admires 
another contemns : it is even possible for a prejudiced mind, 
whose attention is turned towards the faults and blemishes of 
things, to fancy some shadow of defect in those great lights which 
in our own days have enlightened, and still continue to enlighten, 
the world. 

2,6. But pray tell me, Crito, what you think of Josephus. He is 
allowed to have been a man of learning and judgment. He was 
himself an assertor of revealed religion. And Christians, when 
his authority serves their turn, are used to cite him with re- 

Cri. All this I acknowledge. 

Ale. Must it not then seem very strange, and very suspicious to 
every impartial inquirer, that this learned Jew, writing the history 
of his own country, of that very place, and those very times, 
where and when Jesus Christ made His appearance, should yet 
say nothing of the character, miracles, and doctrine of that 
extraordinary person? Some ancient Christians were so sensible 
of this that, to make amends, they inserted a famous passage ^ 4 
in that historian j which imposture hath been sufficiently detected 
by able critics in the last age. 

Cri. Though there are not wanting able critics on the other side 
of the question, yet, not to enter upon the discussion of that 
celebrated passage, I am content to give you all you can desire, 
and suppose it not genuine, but the pious fraud of some wrong- 

93 [Vide Porphyrium De Alstinentia, De 9 * Josephus, Ant. lib. XVIII. cap. 3, 

Sacrificiis, De Diis et Dcemonibus.~\ where the life, miracles, and resurrection of 
AUTHOR. Christ are referred to. 

II. T 

274 AlciphroU) or the Minute Philosopher: 

headed Christian, who could not brook the omission in Josephus. 
But this will never make such omission a real objection against 
Christianity. Nor is there, for aught I can see, anything in it 
whereon to ground either admiration or suspicion; inasmuch as 
it should seem very natural, supposing the gospel account exactly 
true, for Josephus to have said nothing of it ; considering that the 
view of that writer was to give his country some figure in the eye 
of the world, which had been greatly prejudiced against the Jews 
and knew little of their history, to which end the life and death 
of our Saviour would not in any wise have conduced ; considering 
that Josephus could not have been an eye-witness of our Saviour 
or His miracles ; Considering that he was a Pharisee of quality and 
learning, foreign as well as Jewish, one of great employment in 
the state, and that the gospel was preached to the poor ; that the 
first instruments of spreading it and the first converts to it were 
mean and illiterate, that it might not seem the -work of man, 
or beholden to human interest or power ; considering the general 
prejudice of the Jews, who expected in the Messiah a temporal 
and conquering prince ; which prejudice was so strong, that they 
chose rather to attribute our Saviour's miracles to the devil, than 
acknowledge Him to be the Christ : considering also the hellish 
disorder and confusion of the Jewish state in the days of Josephus, 
when men's minds were filled and astonished with unparalleled 
wars, dissensions, massacres, and seditions of that devoted people. 
Laying all these things together, I do not think it strange that 
such a man, writing with such a view, at such a time, and in such 
circumstances, should omit to describe our blessed Saviour's life 
and death, or to mention His miracles, or to take notice of the 
state of the Christian church, which was then as a grain of 
mustard-seed beginning to take root and germinate. And this 
will seem still less strange, if it be considered that the apostles 
in a few years after our Saviour's death departed from Jerusalem, 
setting themselves to convert the gentiles, and were dispersed 
throughout the world ; that the converts in Jerusalem were, not 
only of the meanest of the people, but also few ; the three thousand 
added to the church in one day upon Peter's preaching in that city, 
appearing to have been not inhabitants but strangers from all 
parts assembled to celebrate the feast of Pentecost ; and that all 
the time of Josephus and for several years after, during a succes- 

The Sixth Dialogue. 275 

sion of fifteen bishops, the Christians at Jerusalem observed the 
Mosaic law 95 , and were, consequently, in outward appearance, one 
people with the rest of the Jews, which must have made them less 
observable, I would fain know what reason we have to suppose 
that the gospel, which in its first propagation seemed to overlook 
the great or considerable men of this world, might not also have 
been overlooked by them, as a thing not suited to their apprehen- 
sions and way of thinking ? Besides, in those early times might 
not other learned Jews, as well as Gamaliel 96 , suspend their judg- 
ment of this new way, as not knowing what to make or say of it, 
being on one hand unable to quit the notions and traditions in 
which they were brought up, and, on the other, not daring to 
resist or speak against the gospel, lest they should be found to fight 
against God? Surely at all events, it could never be expected 
that an unconverted Jew should give the same account of the life, 
miracles, and doctrine of Jesus Christ as might become a Chris- 
tian to have given ; nor, on the other hand, was it at all impro- 
bable that a man of sense should beware to lessen or traduce 
what, for aught he knew, might have been a heavenly dispensa- 
tion : between which two courses the middle was to say nothing, 
but pass it over in a doubtful or a respectful silence. And it is 
observable that where this historian occasionally mentions Jesus 
Christ, in his account of St. James's death, he doth it without any 
reflection, or saying either good or bad, though at the same time 
he shews a regard for the apostle. It is observable, I say, that, 
speaking of Jesus, his expression is, c who was called the Christ/ 
not who pretended to be the Christ, or who was falsely called 
the Christ, but simply rov Xeyoptvov Xptorov 9 ?. It is evident 
Josephus knew there was such a man as Jesus, and that He was 
said to be the Christ, and yet he condemns neither him nor his 
followers; which to me seems an argument in their favour. 
Certainly if we suppose Josephus to have known or been persuaded 
that He was an impostor, it will be difficult to account for his not 
saying so in plain terms. But, if we suppose him in Gamaliel's 
way of thinking, who suspended his judgment, and was afraid of 
being found to fight against God, it should seem natural for him 

M [Sulp. Sever. Sacr. Hist., lib. U., ct 97 [Josephus, Ant. lib, XX. cap. 8.]-~ 
Euseb. Cbron. lib. poster.] AUTHOR. AUTHOR. 

96 [Acts v.] AUTHOR. 

T 2 

276 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

to behave in that very manner which according to you makes 
against our faith, but I verily think makes for it. But what if 
Josephus had been a bigot, or even a Sadducee, an infidel, an 
atheist? What then! we readily grant there might have been 
persons of rank, politicians, generals, and men of letters, then as 
well as now, Jews as well as Englishmen, who believed no revealed 
religion j and that some such persons might possibly have heard oi 
a man in low life, who performed miracles by magic, without 
informing themselves, or perhaps ever inquiring, about his mission 
and doctrine. Upon the whole, I cannot comprehend why any 
man should conclude against the truth of the gospel from Josephus's 
omitting to speak of it, any more than from his omitting to 
embrace it. Had the first Christians been chief-priests and rulers, 
or men of science and learning, like Philo and Josephus, it mighl 
perhaps with better colour have been objected that their religion 
was of human contrivance, than now that it hath pleased God bj 
weak things to confound the strong. This I think sufficientl) 
accounts, why in the beginning the gospel might overlook or be 
overlooked by men of a certain rank and character. 

27. Ale. And yet it seems an odd argument in proof of an) 
doctrine, that it was preached by simple people to simple people. 

Crt. Indeed if there was no other attestation to the truth of the 
Christian religion, this must be owned a very weak one. But if i 
doctrine begun by instruments, mean as to all human advantages 
and making its first progress among those who had neither wealth 
nor art, nor power to grace or encourage it, should in a shorl 
time, by its own innate excellency, the mighty force of miracles 
and the demonstration of the Spirit, not only without but againsi 
all worldly motives, spread through the world, and subdue men o 
all ranks and conditions of life, would it not be very unreasonabh 
to reject or suspect it, for the want of human means ? And mighi 
not this with much better reason be thought an argument of itj 
coming from God ? 

Ale. But still an inquisitive man will want the testimony o 
men of learning and knowledge. 

Cri. But, from the first century onwards, there was never wanting 
the testimony of such men, who wrote learnedly in defence of th< 
Christian religion, who lived, many of them, when the memory o 

The Sixth Dialogue. 277 

things was fresh, who had abilities to judge and means to know, 
and who gave the clearest proofs of their conviction and sin- 

Ale. But all' the while these men were Christians, prejudiced 
Christians, and therefore their testimony is to be suspected. 

Cri. It seems then you would have Jews or heathens attest to the 
truths of Christianity ? 

Ale. That is the very thing I want. 

Cri. But how can this be ? Or, if it could, would not any 
rational man be apt to suspect such evidence, and ask how it 
was possible for a man really to believe such things himself 
and not become a Christian? The apostles and first converts 
were themselves Jews, and brought up in a veneration for the 
law of Moses, and in all the prejudices of that people: many 
Fathers, Christian philosophers, and learned apologists for the 
faith, who had been bred gentiles, were without doubt imbued 
with prejudices of education : and if the finger of God and force 
of truth converted both the one and the other from Judaism or 
gentileism, in spite of their prejudices to Christianity, is not their 
testimony so much the stronger? You have then the suffrages of 
both Jews and gentiles, attesting to the truth of our religion in 
the earliest ages. But to expect or desire the attestation of Jews 
remaining Jews, or of gentiles remaining gentiles, seems unreason- 
able : nor can it be imagined that the testimony of men, who 
were not converted themselves, should be the likeliest to convert 
others. We have indeed the testimony of heathen writers to 
prove that about the time of our Saviour's birth there was a 
general expectation in the east of a Messiah or Prince, who 
should found a new dominion : that there were such people as 
Christians: that they were cruelly persecuted and put to death: 
that they were innocent and holy in life and worship: and that 
there did really exist in that time certain persons and facts men- 
tioned in the New Testament. And for other points, we have 
learned Fathers, several of whom had been, as I have already 
observed, bred heathens, to attest their truth. 

Ale. For my part, I have no great opinion of the capacity or 
learning of the Fathers, and many learned men, especially of the 
reformed churches abroad, are of the same mind, which saves me 
the trouble of looking myself into their voluminous writings. 

278 AlciphroH) or the Minute Pfalosopher : 

Cri. 1 shall not take upon me to say, with the minute phi- 
losopher Pomponatius^ 8 , that Origen, Basil, Augustin, and divers 
other Fathers, were equal to Plato, Aristotle, and the greatest of 
the gentiles in human knowledge* But, if I may be allowed to 
make a judgment from \yhat I have seen of their writings, I 
Should think several of them men of great parts, eloquence, and 
learning, and much superior to those who seem to undervalue 
them. Without any affront to certain modern critics or trans- 
lators, Erasmus may be allowed a man of fine taste, and a fit judge 
of sense and good writing, though his judgment in this point was 
very different from theirs. Some of our reformed brethren, because 
the Romanists attribute too much, seem to have attributed too 
little to them, from a very usual, though no very judicious, oppo- 
sition; which is apt to lead men to remark defects, without 
making proper allowances, and to say things which neither piety, 
candour, nor good sense require them to say. 

28. Ale. But, though I should acknowledge that a concurring 
testimony of many learned and able men throughout the first ages 
of Christianity may have its weight, yet when I consider the great 
number of forgeries and heresies that sprung up in those times, 
it very much weakens their credit. 

Cn. Pray, Alciphron, would it be allowed a good argument in 
the mouth of a papist against the Reformation, that many absurd 
.sects sprung up at the same time with it ? Are we to wonder that, 
when good seed is sowing, the enemy should sow tares? But at 
once to cut off several objections, let us suppose in fact, what you 
do not deny possible, that there is a God, a devil, and a revelation 
from heaven committed to writing many centuries ago. Do but 
take a view of human nature, and consider what would probably 
follow from such a supposition; and whether it is not very likely 
there should be half-believers, mistaken bigots, holy frauds, ambi- 
tious, interested, disputing, conceited, schismatical, heretical, 
absurd men among the professors of such revealed religion; as 
well as, after a course of ages, various readings, omissions, trans- 
positions, and obscurities in the text of the sacred oracles ? And 

08 [Lib. De Immortalitate Animce.'] While he was a free inquirer and sceptic in 

AUTHOR. Pomponatius was a bold Italian philosophy, it does not appear that this 

thinker, who powerfully affected opinion in interesting personage was an unbeliever in 

the early part of the sixteenth century. religion. < 

The Sixth Dialogue. 279 

if so, I leave you to judge whether it be reasonable to make those 
events an objection against the being of a thing which would pro- 
bably and naturally follow upon the supposal of its being ? 

Ale. After all, say what you will, this variety of opinions must 
needs shake the faith of a reasonable man. Where there are so 
many different opinions on the same point it is very certain they 
cannot all be true, but it is certain they may all be false. And 
the means to find out the truth ! When a man of sense sets about 
this inquiry, he finds himself on a sudden startled and amused 
with hard words and knotty questions. This makes him abandon 
the pursuit, thinking the game not worth the chase. 

Cri. But would not this man of sense do well to consider, it 
must argue want of discernment to reject Divine truths for the 
sake of human follies ? Use but the same candour and impartiality 
in treating of religion that you would think proper on other 
subjects. We desire no more, and expect no less. In law, in 
physic, in politics, wherever men have refined, is it not evident 
they have been always apt to run into disputes and chicane ? But 
will that hinder you from admitting there are many good rules, 
and just notions, and useful truths in all those professions? 
Physicians may dispute, perhaps vainly and unintelligibly, about 
the animal system : they may assign different causes of distempers, 
some explaining them by the elementary qualities, hot and cold, 
moist and dry : yet this doth not hinder but the bark may be good 
for an ague, and rhubarb for a flux. Nor can it be inferred from the 
different sects which from time to time have sprung up in that 
profession, the dogmatic, for instance, empiric, methodic, Galenic, 
Paracelsian, or the hard words and knotty questions and idle 
theories which have grown from them, or been engrafted on them, 
that, therefore, we should deny the circulation of the blood, or 
reject their excellent rules about exercise, air, and diet. 

Ale . It seems you would screen religion by the example of other 
professions, all which have produced sects and disputes as well as 
Christianity j which may in itself be true and useful, notwithstand- 
ing many false and fruitless notions engrafted on it by the wit of 
man. Certainly if this had been observed or believed by many 
acute reasoners, they would never have made the multiplicity of 
religious opinions and controversies an argument against religion 
in general. 

280 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Cri. How such an obvious truth should escape men of sense and 
inquiry I leave you to account : but I can very easily account for 
gross mistakes in those who pass for free-thinkers without ever 
thinking; or, if they do think, whose meditations are employed 
on other points of a very different nature from a serious and 
impartial inquiry about religion. 

39. But to return : what or where is the profession of men, who 
never split into schisms, or never talk nonsense ? Is it not evident 
that out of all the kinds of knowledge on which the human mind 
is employed there grow certain excrescences, which may be pared 
off, like the clippings of hair or nails in the body, and with no 
worse consequence? Whatever bigots or enthusiasts, whatever 
notional or scholastic divines may say or think, it is certain the 
faith derived from Christ and His apostles was not a piece of 
empty sophistry : they did not deliver and transmit down to us 
KCVTJV cbrdrrjz;, but yvpvj\v yvwwv, to use the expression of a holy 
confessor^. And to pretend to demolish their foundation for the 
sake of human superstructure, be it hay or stubble or what it will, 
is no argument of just thought or reason ; any more than it is of 
fairness to suppose a doubtful sense fixed, and argue from one side 
of the question in disputed points. Whether, for instance, the 
beginning of Genesis is to be understood in a literal or allegorical 
sense ? Whether the book of Job be a history or a parable ? Being 
points disputed between Christians, an infidel can have no right 
to argue from one side of the question in those or the like cases. 
This or that tenet of a sect, this or that controverted notion, is 
not what we contend for at present, but the General Faith taught 
by Christ and His apostles, and preserved by universal and per- 
petual tradition in all the churches down to our own times. To 
tax or strike at this Divine Doctrine, on account of things foreign 
and adventitious, the speculations and disputes of curious men, is 
in my mind an absurdity of the same kind as it would be to cut 
down a fine tree, yielding fruit and shade, because its leaves 
afforded nourishment to caterpillars, or because spiders may now 
and then weave cobwebs among the branches. 

Ale. To divide and distinguish would take time. We have 

09 [Socr. Histor. Eccles. lib. I.] AUTHOR. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 281 

several gentlemen very capable of judging in the gross, but that 
want attention for irksome and dry studies, or minute inquiries. 
To which, as it would be very hard to oblige men against their 
will, so it must be a great wrong to the world, as well as them- 
selves, to debar them from the right of deciding according to 
their natural v sense of things. 

Cr/. It were to be wished those capable men would employ their 
judgment and attention on the same objects. If theological in- 
quiries are unpalatable, the field of nature is wide. How many 
discoveries are to be made ! How many errors to be corrected in 
arts and sciences ! How many vices to be reformed in life and 
manners! Why do men single out such points as are innocent 
and useful, when there are so many pernicious mistakes to be 
amended ? Why set themselves to destroy the hopes of human 
kind and encouragements to virtue ? Why delight to judge where 
they disdain to inquire ? Why not employ their noble talents on 
the longitude or perpetual motion ? 

Ale. I wonder you should not see the difference between points 
of curiosity and religion. Those employ only men of a genius or 
humour suited to them. But all mankind have a right to censure, 
and are concerned to judge of these; except they will blindly 
submit to be governed by the stale wisdom of their ancestors, 
and the established laws of their country. 

, Cri. It should seem, if they are concerned to judge, they are not 
less concerned to examine before they judge. 

Ale. But after all the examination and inquiry that mortal man 
can make about Revealed Religion, it is impossible to come at any 
rational sure footing. 

30. There is, indeed, a deal of specious talk about faith founded 
upon miracles. But when I examine this matter thoroughly, and 
trace Christian faith up to its original, I find it rests upon much 
darkness, and scruple, and uncertainty. Instead of points evident 
or agreeable to human reason, I find a wonderful narrative of the 
Son of God tempted in the wilderness by the devil, a thing utterly 
unaccountable, without any end, or use, or reason whatsoever. 
I meet with strange histories of apparitions of angels, and voices 
from heaven, with surprising accounts of demoniacs, things quite 
out of the road of common sense and observation, with several 

282 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

incredible feats said to have been done by Divine power, but more 
probably the inventions of men: nor the less likely to be so, 
because I cannot pretend to say with what view they were in- 
vented. Designs deeply laid are dark, and the less we know the 
more we suspect : but, admitting them for true, I shall not allow 
them to be miraculous, until I thoroughly know the power of what 
are called second causes, and the force of Magic. 

Cri. You seem, Alciphron, to analyse, not faith, but infidelity, 
and trace it to its principles; which, from your own account, I 
collect to be dark and doubtful scruples and surmises, hastiness in 
judging, and narrowness in thinking, grounded on a fanciful 
notion which overrates the little scantling of your own experience, 
and on real ignorance of the views of Providence, and of the 
qualities, operations, and mutual respects of the several kinds of 
beings which are, or may be, for aught you know, in the universe. 
Thus obscure, uncertain, conceited, and conjectural are the 
principles of infidelity. Whereas, on the other hand, the principles 
of faith seem to be points plain and clear. It is a clear point that 
this faith in Christ was spread abroad throughout the world soon 
after his death. It is a clear point that this was not effected by 
human learning, politics, or power. It is a clear point that in the 
early times of the church there were several men of knowledge and 
integrity, who embraced this faith not from any, but against all, 
temporal motives. It is a clear point that, the nearer they were 
to the fountain-head, the more opportunity they had to satisfy 
themselves as to the truth of those facts which they believed. It 
is a clear point that the less interest there was to persuade, the 
more need there was of evidence to convince them. It is a clear 
point that they relied on the authority of those who declared 
themselves eye-witnesses of the miracles and resurrection of 
Christ. It is a clear point that those professed eye-witnesses 
suffered much for this their attestation, and finally sealed it with 
their blood. It is a clear point that these witnesses, weak and 
contemptible as they were, overcame the world, spread more light, 
preached purer models, and did more benefit to mankind than all 
the philosophers and sages put together. 

These points appear to me clear and sure, and, being allowed 
such, they are plain, just, and reasonable motives of assent ; they 
stand upon no fallacious ground, they contain nothing beyond our 

The Sixth Dialogue. 283 

sphere, neither supposing more knowledge nor other faculties than 
we are really masters of; and, if they should not be admitted for 
morally certain, as I believe they will by fair and unprejudiced in- 
quirers, yet the allowing them to be only probable is sufficient to 
stop the mouth of an infidel. These plain points, I say, are the 
pillars of our faith, and not those obscure ones by you supposed ; 
which are in truth the unsound uncertain principles of infidelity, to 
a rash, prejudiced, and assuming spirit. To raise an argument or 
answer an objection from hidden powers of Nature or Magic is 
groping in the dark j but, by the evident light of sense, men might 
be sufficiently certified of sensible effects and matters of fact, such 
as the miracles and resurrection of Christ ; and the testimony of 
such men may be transmitted to after ages, with the same moral 
certainty as other historical narrations j and those same miraculous 
facts, compared by reason with the doctrines they were brought to 
prove, do afford to an unbiassed mind strong indications of their 
coming from God, or a superior principle, whose Goodness re- 
trieved the moral world, whose Power commanded the natural, and 
whose Providence extended over both. Give me leave to say that 
nothing dark, nothing incomprehensible, or mysterious, or un- 
accountable, is the ground or motive, the principle or foundation, 
the proof or reason of our faith although it may be the object of 
it. For, it must be owned that, if by clear and sure principles we 
are rationally led to believe a point less clear, we do not therefore 
reject such point because it is mysterious to conceive, or difficult 
to account for ; nor would it be right so to do. As for Jews and 
gentiles anciently attributing our Saviour's miracles to Magic, this 
is so far from being a proof against them that to me it seems 
rather a proof of the facts, without disproving the cause to which 
we ascribe them. As we do not pretend to know the nature and 
operations of demons, the history, laws, and system of rational 
beings, and the schemes or views of Providence, so far as to 
account for every action and appearance recorded in the gospel; 
so neither do you know enough of those things to be able, from 
that knowledge of yours, to object against accounts so well attested. 
It is an easy matter to raise scruples upon many authentic parts of 
civil history, which, requiring a more perfect knowledge of facts, 
circumstances, and councils than we can come at to explain them, 
must be to us inexplicable. And this is still more easy with 

284 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

respect to the history of Nature, in which, if surmises were ad- 
mitted for proofs against things odd, strange, and unaccountable ; 
if our scanty experience were made the rule and measure of truth, 
and all those phenomena rejected, that we, through ignorance of 
the principles, and laws, and system of nature, could not explain, 
we should indeed make discoveries, but it would be only of our 
own blindness and presumption. And why men that are so easily 
and so often gravelled in common points, in things natural and 
visible, should yet be so sharp-sighted and dogmatical about the 
invisible world and its mysteries is to me a point utterly un- 
accountable by all the rules of logic and good sense. Upon the 
whole, therefore, I cannot help thinking there are points sufficiently 
plain, and clear, and full, whereon a man may ground a reasonable 
faith in Christ : but that the attacks of minute philosophers 
against this faith are grounded upon darkness, ignorance, and 

Ale. I doubt I shall still remain in the dark as to the proofs of 
the Christian religion, and always presume there is nothing in 

31. For, how is it possible, at this remote distance, to arrive at 
any knowledge, or frame any demonstration about it ? 

Cri. What then ? Knowledge, I grant, in a strict sense, cannot 
be had without evidence or demonstration: but probable 100 argu- 
ments are a sufficient ground of faith. Who ever supposed that 
scientifical proofs were necessary to make a Christian? Faith 
alone is required ; and, provided that, in the main and upon the 
whole, men are persuaded, this saving faith may consist with some 
degrees of obscurity, scruple, and error. For, although the light of 
truth be unchangeable, and the same in its eternal source, the 
Father of Lights : yet, with respect to us, it is variously weakened 
and obscured, by passing through a longdistance or gross medium 1 , 
where it is intercepted, distorted, or tinctured, by the prejudices 
and passions of men. But, all this notwithstanding, he that will 

100 In this and the next section, the broad gion is essentially moral or practical, and 

characteristics of Faith Christian or other appeals to man, not to pure intelligence. 

are opposed to Science or Demonstration. Cf. Berkeley's Sermon before the S. P. G. 
Probability, according to Berkeley, is the 1 Cf. Sins, sect. 330, 333, 336, 340. 
ground of Faith. The evidence of reli- 

The Sixth Dialogue. 285 

use his eyes may see enough for the purposes either of nature or of 
grace though by a light, dimmer indeed, or clearer, according to 
the place, or the distance, or the hour, or the medium. And it 
will be sufficient if such analogy appears between the dispensa- 
tions of grace and nature, as may make it probable (although much 
should be unaccountable in both) to suppose them derived from 
the same Author, and the workmanship of one and the same 
Hand 2. 

Ale. Those who saw, and touched, and handled Jesus Christ 
after His resurrection, if there were any such, may be said to have 
seen by a clear light : but to us the light is very dim, and yet it is 
expected we should believe this point as well as they. For my 
part, I believe, with Spinosa, that Christ's death was literal, but 
His resurrection allegorical 3 . 

Cri. And, for my part, I can see nothing in this celebrated infidel 
that should make me desert matters of fact, and moral evidence, 
to adopt his notions. Though I must needs own I admit an 
allegorical resurrection that proves the real to wit, a resurrection 
of Christ's disciples from weakness to resolution, from fear to 
courage, from despair to hope, of which, for aught I can see, no 
rational account can be given, but the sensible evidence that our 
Lord was truly, really, and literally risen from the dead. But as it 

2 This sentence expresses the leading vidit homines, quos ad secum prandendum 

conception in the Analogy of Butler, the invitavit. At dices, Apostolos omnes omnino 

author's friend, published four years after. credidisse quod Christus a morte resurrexerit 

His analogical argument is not to be con- at ad coelum revera ascenderit: quod ego 

founded with the analogical theory of theo- non nego. Nam ipse etiam Abrahamus 

logical knowledge of King or Brown. Butler credidit, quod Deus apud ipsum pransus 

suggests a unity of idea in the natural and fuerit, et omnes Israelitae, quod Deus a coelo 

the supernatural revelation in reason and igne circumdatus ad montem Sinai descen- 

Christianity sufficient for faith, but not for derit et cum iis immediate locutus fuerit, 

demonstration or knowledge. quum tamen haec et plura alia hujus modi 

8 [Vide Spinosae Epist. ad Oldenburgium.'] apparitiones seu revelationes fuerint, captui 

AUTHOR. The following passage is proba- et opinionibus eorum hominum accom- 

bly referred to : ' Quod scilicet Christus modatae, quibus Deus mentem suam iisdem 

non senatui, nee Pilato, nee cuiquam in revelare voluit. Conclude, itaque, Christi 

prcelium, sed sanctis tantummodo apparuerit, a mortuis resurrectionem revera spiritualem 

et quod Deus neque dextram neque sinistram et solis fidelibus ad eorum captum revelatam 

habeat nee in loco, sed ubique secundum esse, nempe quod Christus aeternitate donatus 

essentiam sit, et quod materia ubique sit qui et a mortuis (mortuous hie intelligo eo 

cadem, et quod Deus extra mundum in sensu, quo Christus dixit smite mortuous 

spatio, quod fingunt, imaginario, sese non sepelire mortuous suos) surrexit, simul atque 

manifestet, et quod denique corporis human! vita et morte singularis sanctitatis exemplum 

compages intra debitos limites solo aeris dedit; et eatenus discipulos suos a mortuis 

pondere coerceatur ; facile videbis hanc suscitat, quatenus ipsi hoc vitae ejus et mortis 

Christi apparitionem non absimilem esse illi exemplum sequuntur.' Epistola XXIII. 

qua Deus Abrahamo apparuit, quando hie See also Epistola XXI., XXV. 

286 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

cannot be denied that His disciples, who were eye-witnesses of His 
miracles and resurrection, had stronger evidence than we can have 
of those points 4 ; so it cannot be denied, that such evidence was 
then more necessary, to induce men to embrace a new institution, 
contrary to the whole system of their education, their prejudices, 
their passions, their interests, and every human motive. Though 
to me it seems the moral evidence and probable arguments within 
our reach are abundantly sufficient to make prudent thinking 
men adhere to the faith handed down to us from our ancestors, 
established by the laws of our country, requiring submission in 
points above our knowledge, and for the rest recommending doc- 
trines the most agreeable to our interest and our reason. And, how- 
ever strong the light might have been at the fountain-head, yet its 
long continuance and propagation, by such unpromising instruments 
throughout the world, have been very wonderful. We may now 
take a more comprehensive view of the connexion, order, and 
progress of the Divine dispensations, and, by a retrospect on a 
long series of past ages, perceive a unity of design running 
throughout the whole, a gradual disclosing and fulfilling the pur- 
poses of Providence, a regular progress from types to antitypes, 
from things carnal to things spiritual, from earth to heaven. We 
may behold Christ crucified, that stumbling-block to the Jews and 
foolishness to the Greeks, putting a final period to the temple- 
worship of the one and the idolatry of the other, and that stone, 
which was cut out of the mountain without hands and brake in 
pieces all other kingdoms, become itself a great mountain. 

32. If a due reflection on these things be not sufficient to beget 
a reverence for the Christian faith in the minds of men, I should 
rather impute it to any other cause than a wise and cautious 
incredulity: when I see their easiness of faith in the common 
concerns of life, where there is no prejudice or appetite to bias or 
disturb their natural judgment : when I see those very men that in 
religion will not stir a step without evidence, and at every turn 
expect demonstration, trust their health to a physician, their lives 
to a sailor, with an implicit faith I cannot think they deserve the 

4 Cf. Berkeley's Sermon beforetbeS. P. G. matically that the historical evidence of 

. In ihe^Tbtologice Cbristiance Prindpia Christianity, gradually weakening, will be 

Matbematica of John Craig, published in reduced to zero A.D. 3150. 
1699, an attempt is made to prove mathe- 

The Sixth Dialogue. 287 

honour of being thought more incredulous than other men, or that 
they are more accustomed to know, and for this reason less 
inclined to believe. On the contrary, one is tempted to suspect 
that ignorance hath a greater share than science in our modern 
infidelity; and that it proceeds more from a wrong head, or an 
irregular will, than from deep researches, 

Lys. We do not, it must be owned, think that learning or deep 
researches are necessary to pass right judgments upon things. I 
sometimes suspect that learning is apt to produce and justify 
whims, and sincerely believe we should do better without it. Our 
sect are divided on this point, but much the greater part think 
with me. I have heard more than once very observing men 
remark, that learning was the true human means which preserved 
religion in the world ; and that, if we had it in our power to prefer 
blockheads in the church, all would soon be right. 

Crl. Men must be strangely in love with their opinions, to put 
out their eyes rather than part with them. But it has been often 
remarked by observing men, that there are no greater bigots than 

Lys. What! a free-thinker and a bigot Impossible ! 

Cri. Not so impossible neither, that an infidel should be 
bigoted to his infidelity. Methinks I see a bigot wherever I see 
a man overbearing and positive without knowing why, laying the 
greatest stress on points of smallest moment, hasty to judge of the 
conscience, thoughts, and inward views of other men, impatient 
of reasoning against his own opinions, and choosing them with 
inclination rather than judgment, an enemy to learning, and 
attached to mean authorities. How far our modern infidels 
agree with this description, I leave to be considered by those who 
really consider and think for themselves. 

Lyf. We are no bigots ; we are men that discover difficulties in 
religion, that tie knots and raise scruples, which disturb the 
repose and interrupt the golden dreams of bigots, who therefore 
cannot endure us. 

Cr/. They who cast about for difficulties will be sure to find or 
make them upon every subject ; but he that would, upon the foot 
of reason, erect himself into a judge, in order to make a wise 
judgment on a subject of that nature, will not only consider the 
doubtful and difficult parts of it, but take a comprehensive view of 

288 Akiphron y or the Minute Philosopher : 

the whole, consider it in all its parts and relations, trace it to its 
original, examine its principles, effects, and tendencies, its proofs 
internal and external. He will distinguish between the clear points 
and the obscure, the certain and the uncertain, the essential and 
circumstantial, between what is genuine and what foreign. He 
will consider the different sorts of proof that belong to different 
things where evidence is to be expected, where probability may 
suffice, and where it is reasonable to suppose there should be 
doubts and scruples. He will proportion his pains and exactness to 
the importance of the inquiry, and check that disposition of his 
mind to conclude all those notions, groundless prejudices, with 
which it was imbued before it knew the reason of them. He will 
silence his passions, and listen to truth. He will endeavour to 
untie knots as well as tie them, and dwell rather on the light parts 
of things than the obscure. He will balance the force of his under- 
standing with the difficulty of the subject, and, to render his judg- 
ment impartial, hear evidence on all sides, and, so far as he is led 
by authority, choose to follow that of the honestest and wisest 
men. Now, it is my sincere opinion, the Christian religion may 
well stand the test of such an inquiry. 

JLys. But such an inquiry would cost too much pains and time. 
We have thought of another method the bringing religion to the 
test of wit and humour : this we find a much shorter, easier, and 
more effectual way. And, as all enemies are at liberty to choose 
their weapons, we make choice of those we are most expert at : 
and we are the better pleased with this choice, having observed 
that of all things a solid divine hates a jest. 

Eufh. 5 To consider the whole of the subject, to read and think 
on all sides, to object plainly, and answer directly, upon the foot 
of dry reason and argument, would be a very tedious and trouble- 
some affair. Besides, it is attacking pedants at their own weapons. 
How much more delicate and artful is it, to give a hint, to cover 
one's-self with an enigma, to drop a double entendre, to keep it 
in one's power to recover, and slip aside, and leave his antagonist 
beating the air ! 

Lys. This hath been practised with great success, and I believe 
it the top method to gain proselytes, and confound pedants. 

8 What Euphranor here says is attributed to Lysicles in the first edition, and in the 
posthumous editions. 

The Sixth Dialogue. 289 

Ov. I have seen several things written in this way, which, I 
suppose, were copied from the behaviour of a sly sort of scorners 
one may sometimes meet with. Suppose a conceited man that 
would pass for witty, tipping the wink upon one, thrusting out his 
tongue at another ; one while waggishly smiling, another with a 
grave mouth and ludicrous eyes ; often affecting the countenance 
of one who smothered a jest, and sometimes bursting out in a 
horse-laugh: what a figure would this be, I will not say in the 
senate or council, but in a private visit among well-bred men! 
And yet this is the figure that certain great authors, who in this 
age would pass for models, and do pass for models, make in their 
polite and elaborate writings on the most weighty points. 

Ale. I who profess myself an admirer, an adorer of reason, am 
obliged to own that in some cases the sharpness of ridicule can 
do more than the strength of argument. But if we exert our- 
selves in the use of mirth and humour, it is not for want of other 
weapons. It shall never be said that a free-thinker was afraid of 
reasoning. No, Crito, we have reasons in store, the best are yet 
to come ; and if we can find an hour for another conference before 
we set out to-morrow morning, I will undertake you shall be plied 
with reasons, as clear, and home, and close to the point as you 
could wish. * 



f. Christian faith impossible. 2. Words stand for ideas. 3. No knowledge or faith with- 
out ideas. 4. Grace, no idea of it. 5. Abstract ideas what, and how made. 6. Ab- 
stract general ideas impossible. 7. In what sense there may be general ideas. 8. Sug- 
gesting ideas not the only use of words. 9. Force as difficult to form an idea of as grace. 
IO. Notwithstanding which, useful propositions may be formed concerning it. II. Be- 
lief of the Trinity and other mysteries not absurd. 12. Mistakes about faith an occa- 
sion of profane raillery. 13. Faith its true nature and effects. 14. Illustrated by science. 
15. By arithmetic in particular. 16. Sciences conversant about signs. 17. The true end 
of speech, reason, science, and faith. 18. Metaphysical objections as strong against human 
science as articles of faith. 19. No religion, because no human liberty. 20. Further 
proof against human liberty. 21. Fatalism a consequence of erroneous suppositions. 
22. Man an accountable agent. 23. Inconsistency, singularity, and credulity of minute 
philosophers. 24. Untrodden paths and new light of the minute philosophers. 25. 
Sophistry of the minute philosophers. 26. Minute philosophers ambiguous, enigmatical, 
unfathomable. 27. Scepticism of the minute philosphers. 28. How a sceptic ought to 
behave. 29. Minute philosophers why difficult to convince. 30. Thinking, not the 
epidemical evil of these times. 31. Infidelity not an effect of reason or thought: its true 
motives assigned. 32. Variety of opinions about religion, effects thereof. 33. Method 
for proceeding with minute philosophers. 34. Want of thought and want of education 
defects of the present age. 

I. THE philosophers having resolved to set out for London 
next morning, we assembled at break of day in the library. 

Alciphron began with a declaration of his sincerity^ assuring us 
he had very maturely and with a most unbiassed mind considered 
all that had been said the day before. He added that upon the 
whole he could not deny several probable reasons were produced 
for embracing the Christian faith. But, said he, those reasons 

6 In this Dialogue the argument passes terms Grace, Trinity, Incarnation, Original 

from the moral basis of Christian faith to Sin, and Free Agency the last involving 

the logical possibility of the Christian Mys- the fundamental assumption of religion and 

teries. Christianity, it is alleged by free- morality. At the close of the discussion, 

thinkers, is essentially absurd, and, as such, Minute Philosophy is found to resolve itself 

cannot be vindicated by any positive proof, into Universal Scepticism, that mere play of 

however probable. This leads to discussion intellect, when intellect is divorced from the 

of the relation between Faith and Know- emotional and practical part of human na- 

ledge the Nominalist doctrine of signs ture while it is the aim of Berkeley's phi- 

the theory of the office and utility of Ian- losophy, by its rejection of abstractions, to 

guage, when its terms do not suggest ideas reconcile intellect with human nature. 
and an application of this theory to the 

The Seventh Dialogue. 291 

being only probable, can never prevail against absolute certainty 
and demonstration. If, therefore, I can demonstrate your religion 
to be a thing altogether absurd and inconsistent, your probable 
arguments in its defence do from that moment lose their force, 
and with it all right to be answered or considered. The concur- 
ring testimony of sincere and able witnesses hath without question 
great weight in human affairs. I will even grant that things odd 
and unaccountable to human judgment or experience may some- 
times claim our assent on that sole motive. And I will also grant 
it possible for a tradition to be conveyed with moral evidence 
through many centuries. But at the same time you will grant to 
me that a thing demonstrably and palpably false is not to be 
admitted on any testimony whatever, which at best can never 
amount to demonstration. To be plain, no testimony can make 
nonsense sense : no moral evidence can make contradictions con- 
sistent. Know, then, that as the strength of our cause doth hot 
depend upon, so neither is it to be decided by any critical points 
of history, chronology, or languages. You are not to wonder, if 
the same sort of tradition and moral proof which governs our 
assent with respect to facts in civil or natural history is not 
admitted as a sufficient voucher for metaphysical absurdities and 
absolute impossibilities. Things obscure and unaccountable in 
human affairs or the operations of nature may yet be possible, 
and, if well attested, may be assented unto; but religious assent 
or Faith can be evidently shewn In its own nature to be imprac- 
ticable, impossible, and absurd. This is the primary motive to 
infidelity. This is our citadel and fortress, which may, indeed, 
be graced with outworks of various erudition, but, if those are 
demolished, remains in itself and of its own proper strength 

Eufh. This, it must be owned, reduceth our inquiry within a 
narrow compass : do but make out this, and I shall have nothing 
more to say. 

Ale. Know, then, that the shallow mind of the vulgar, as it 
dwells only on the outward surface of things, and considers them 
in the gross, may be easily imposed on. Hence a blind reverence 
for religious Faith and Mystery. But when an acute philosopher 
comes to dissect and analyse these points, the imposture plainly 
appears ; and as he has no blindness, so he has no reverence for 

u 2 

29 2 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

empty notions, or, to speak more properly, for mere forms of 
speech, which mean nothing, and are of no use to mankind. 

%. Words are signs : they do or should stand for ideas ; which 

so far as they suggest they are significant. But words that suggest 

no ideas are insignificant. He who annexeth a clear idea to 

every word he makes use of speaks sense ; but where such ideas 

are wanting, the speaker utters nonsense". In order therefore to 

know whether any man's speech be senseless and insignificant, we 

have nothing to do but lay aside the words, and consider the 

ideas suggested by them. Men, not being able immediately to 

communicate their ideas one to another, are obliged to make use 

of sensible signs or words ; the use of which is to raise those ideas 

in the hearer which are in the mind of the speaker ; and if they 

fail of this end they serve to no purpose. He who really thinks 

hath a train of ideas succeeding each other and connected in his 

mind; and when he expresseth himself by discourse each word 

suggests a distinct idea to the hearer or reader ; who by that 

means hath the same train of ideas in his which was in the mind 

of the speaker or writer. As far as this effect is produced, so 

far the discourse is intelligible, hath sense and meaning. Hence 

it follows that whoever can be supposed to understand what he 

reads or hears must have a train of ideas raised in his mind, 

correspondent to the train of words read or heard. These plain 

truths, to which men readily assent in theory, are but little 

attended to in practice, and therefore deserve to be enlarged on 

and inculcated, however obvious and undeniable. Mankind are 

generally averse from thinking, though apt enough to entertain 

discourse either in themselves or others: the effect whereof is 

that their minds are rather stored with names than ideas, the husk 

of science rather than the thing. And yet these words without 

meaning do often make distinctions of parties, the subject-matter 

of their disputes, and the object of their fceal. This is the most 

general cause of error, which doth not influence ordinary minds 

alone, but even those who pass for acute and learned philosophers 

are often employed about names instead of things or ideas, and are 

7 See Locke, Essay, Bk. III. ch. a, 10, and Cf. Berkeley, De Motn, sect. 29. In what 
Collins's Philosophical Inquiry, pp. 2, 8, in follows, ideas mean representative intuitions, 
which the necessity for * clear ideas ' is urged. or generic images. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 293 

supposed to know when they only pronounce hard words without 
a meaning. 

3. Though it is evident that, as knowledge is the perception of 
the connexion or disagreement between ideas", he who doth not 
distinctly perceive the ideas marked by the terms, so as to form 
a mental proposition answering to the verbal, cannot possibly 
have knowledge. No more can he be said to have opinion or faith; 
which imply a weaker assent, but still it must be to a proposition, 
the terms of which are understood as clearly, although the agree- 
ment or disagreement of the ideas may not be so evident, as in the 
case of knowledge. I say, all degrees of assent, whether founded 
on reason or authority, more or less cogent, are internal acts of 
the mind, which alike terminate in ideas as their proper object 
without which there can be really no such thing as knowledge, 
faith, or opinion. We may perhaps' raise a dust and dispute about 
tenets purely verbal but what is this at bottom more than mere 
trifling ? All which will be easily admitted with respect to human 
learning and science ; wherein it is an allowed method to expose 
any doctrine or tenet by stripping them of the words 9 , and ex- 
amining what ideas are underneath, or whether any ideas at all? 
This is often found the shortest way to end disputes, which might 
otherwise grow and multiply without end, the litigants neither 
understanding one another nor themselves. It were needless to 
illustrate what shines by its own light, and is admitted by all 
thinking men. My endeavour shall be only to apply it in the 
present case. I suppose I need not be at any pains to prove 
that the same rules of reason and good sense which obtain in all 
other subjects ought to take place in religion. As for those who 
consider faith and reason as two distinct provinces, and would 
have us think good sense has nothing to do where it is most 
concerned, I am resolved never to argue with such men, but leave 
them in quiet possession of their prejudices. 

And now, for the particular application of what I have said, 
I shall not single out any nice disputed points of school divinity, 
or those that relate to the nature and essence of God, which, 

8 So Locke, Essay, Bk. IV. ch. i. 

9 Cf. Principles of Human Knowledge * Introduction/ sect. 23, 24. 

.294 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

being allowed infinite, you might pretend to screen them under 
the general notion of difficulties attending the nature of Infinity, 

4. Grace is the main point in the Christian dispensation ; 
nothing is oftener mentioned or more considered throughout the 
New Testament* wherein it is represented as somewhat of a 
very particular kind, distinct from anything revealed to the Jews, 
or known by the light of nature. This same grace is spoken of as 
the gift of God, as coming by Jesus Christ, as reigning, as abound- 
ing, as operating. Men are said to speak through grace, to believe 
through grace. Mention is made of the glory of grace, the riches 
of grace, the stewards of grace. Christians are said to be heirs of 
grace, to receive grace, grow in grace, be strong in grace, to stand 
in grace, and to fall from grace. And lastly, grace is said to 
justify and to save them. Hence Christianity is styled the 
covenant or dispensation of grace. And it is well known that 
no point hath created more controversy in the church than this 
doctrine of grace. What disputes about its nature, extent, and 
effects, about universal, efficacious, sufficient, preventing, irresis- 
tible grace, have employed the pens of Protestant as well as Popish 
divines, of Jansenists and Molinists, of Lutherans, Calvinists, and 
Arminians, as I have not the least curiosity to know, so I need 
not say* It sufficeth to observe, that there have been and are 
still subsisting great contests upon these points. Only one thing 
I should desire to be informed of, to wit, What is the clear and 
distinct Idea marked by the word grace ? I presume a man may 
know the bare meaning of a term, without going into the depth of 
all those learned inquiries. This surely is an easy matter, pro- 
vided there is an idea annexed to such term. And if there is not, 
it can be neither the subject of a rational dispute, nor the object 
of real faith. Men may indeed impose upon themselves or others, 
and pretend to argue and believe, when at bottom there is no 
argument or belief, further than mere verbal trifling. Grace taken 
in the vulgar sense, either for beauty, or favour, I can easily 
understand. But when it denotes an active, vital, ruling prin- 
ciple, influencing and operating on the mind of man, distinct 
from every natural power or motive, I profess myself altogether 
unable to understand it, or frame any distinct idea of it; and 
therefore I cannot assent to any proposition concerning it, nor 

The Seventh Dialogue. 295 

consequently have any faith about it: and it is a self-evident 
truth, that God obligeth no man to impossibilities. At the 
request of a philosophical friend, I did cast an eye on the writings 
he shewed me of some divines, and talked with others on this 
subject, but after all I had read or heard could make nothing of it, 
having always found, whenever I laid aside the word grace, and 
looked into my own mind, a perfect vacuity or privation of all 
ideas. And, as I am apt to think men's minds and faculties are 
made much alike, I suspect that other men, if they examine what 
they call grace with the same exactness and indifference, would 
agree with me, that there was nothing in it but an empty name. 
This is not the only instance where a word often heard and 
pronounced is believed intelligible, for no other reason but 
because it is familiar. Of the same kind are many other points 
reputed necessary articles of faith. That which in the present 
case tmposeth upon mankind I take to be partly this. Men speak 
of this holy principle as of something that acts, moves, and de- 
termines taking their ideas from corporeal things, from motion 
and the force or momentum of bodies, which, being of an obvious 
and sensible 10 nature, they substitute in place of a thing spiritual 
and incomprehensible, which is a manifest delusion. For, though 
the idea of corporeal force be never so clear and intelligible, it 
will not therefore follow that the idea of grace, a thing perfectly 
incorporeal, must be so too. And though we may reason dis- 
tinctly, perceive, assent, and form opinions about the one, it will 
by no means follow that we can do so of the other. Thus, it 
comes to pass that a clear sensible idea of what is real produceth, 
or rather is made a pretence for, an imaginary spiritual faith that 
terminates in no object a thing impossible! For there can be 
no assent where there are no ideas : and where there is no assent 
there can be no faith : and what cannot be, that no man is obliged 
to. This is as clear as anything in Euclid. 

5. The same method of reasoning may be applied by any man 
of sense to confute all other the most essential articles of the 
Christian faith. You are not therefore to wonder that a man 

10 Cf. De Motu, sect. 43 66, which re- Berkeley, the force which causes all motion 
solve motion into the sensible appearance is spiritual, 
of things in various relative places. With 

296 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

who proceeds on such solid grounds, such clear and evident prin- 
ciples, should be deaf to all you can say from moral evidence, or 
probable arguments, which are nothing in the balance against 
demonstration 11 . 

Eufh. The more light and force there are in this discourse, the 
more you are to blame for not having produced it sooner. For 
my part, I should never have said one word against evidence. But 
let me see whether I understand you rightly. You say, every word 
in an intelligible discourse must stand for an idea; which ideas as 
far as they are clearly and distinctly apprehended, so far the dis- 
course hath meaning, without which it is useless and insignificant. 

Ale. I do. 

Euph. For instance, when I hear the word man^ triangle^ colour^ 
pronounced, they must excite in my mind distinct ideas of those 
things whereof they are signs; otherwise I cannot be said to 
understand them. 

Ale. Right. 

Euph. And this is the only true use of language. 

Ale. That is what I affirm. 

Eufh. But every time the word man occurs in reading or con- 
versation, I am not conscious that the particular distinct Idea 
of a man is excited in my mind. For instance, when I read in 
St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians these words, c If a man thinketh 
himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceiveth 
himself/ methinks 1 comprehend the force and meaning of this 
proposition, although I do not frame to myself the particular 
distinct idea of a man. 

Ale. It is very true you do not form in your mind the parti- 
cular idea of Peter, James, or John, of a fair or a black, a tall or 
a low, a fat or a lean, a straight or a crooked, a wise or a foolish, 
a sleeping or a waking man ; but the abstract general idea 12 ofman y 

11 If the Christian Mysteries are in them- e.g. an extension which is neither tangible 
selves demonstrably only meaningless words, nor visible, and a tangible or a visible ex- 
the moral or probable evidence which was tension, which is neither hard nor soft, 
offered (Dial. VI.) as the basis of Christian black nor white, but void of all sensible 
faith, must, it is argued, go for nothing qualities. Hence his abolition of abstract 
faith being irreconcileable with a total Matter, Space, Time, Substance, Cause ; and 
nescience of its professed object. his analysis of what is signified by these 

12 In this and the three following sections names into sense-given or other experience 
the fundamental principle of Berkeley's of particular things. Berkeley's Principles 
metaphysical philosophy is introduced and o/ Human Knowledge and Dialogues of 
illustrated, viz. : the logical impossibility of Hylas and Pbilonous are an application of 
abstract general ideas and real existences, this fundamental principle. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 297 

prescinding from and exclusive of all particular shape, size, com- 
plexion, passions, faculties, and every individual circumstance. 

To explain this matter more fully, you are to understand there is 
in the human mind a faculty of contemplating the general nature 
of things, separate from all those particularities which distinguish 
the individuals one from another. For example, in Peter, James, 
and John, you may observe in each a certain collection of stature, 
figure, colour, and other peculiar properties by which they are 
known asunder, distinguished from all other men, and, if I may 
so say, individuated. Now, leaving out of the idea of a man 
that which is peculiar to the individual, and retaining only that 
which is common to all men, you form an abstract universal idea 
of man or human nature^ which includes no particular stature, shape, 
colour, or other quality, whether of mind or body. After the same 
manner you may observe particular triangles to differ one from 
another, as their sides are equal or unequal, and their angles 
greater or lesser j whence they are denominated equilateral, 
equicrural, or scalenum, obtusangular, acutangular, or rectangular. 
But the mind, excluding out of its ideas all these peculiar pro- 
perties and distinctions, framed the general abstract idea of a 
triangle^ which is neither equilateral, equicrural, nor scalenum, 
neither obtusangular, acutangular, nor rectangular; but all and 
none of these at once 13 . The same may be said of the general 
abstract idea of colour^ which is something distinct from and 
exclusive of blue, red, green, yellow, and every other particular 
colour, including only that general essence in which they all agree. 
And what has been said of these three general names, and the 
abstract general ideas they stand for, may be applied to all others. 
For you must know that particular things or ideas being infinite, 
if each were marked or signified by a distinct proper name, words 
must have been innumerable, and language an endless impossible 
thing. Hence it comes to pass that appellative or general names 
stand, immediately and properly, not for particular but for abstract 
general ideas, which they never fail to excite in the mind, as oft 
as they are used to any significant purpose. And without this 
there could be no communication or enlargement of knowledge, no 
such thing as universal science or theorems of any kind. Now, for 
understanding any proposition or discourse, it is sufficient that 

13 [See Locke, On Human Understanding, Bk. IV. ch. 7.] AUTHOR. . 

298 AlciphroUy or the Minute Philosopher: 

distinct ideas are thereby raised in your mind, correspondent to 
those in the speaker's, whether the ideas so raised are particular, 
or only abstract and general ideas. Forasmuch, nevertheless, as 
these are not so obvious and familiar to vulgar minds, it happens 
that some men may think they have no idea at all, when they 
have not a particular idea ; but the truth is, you had the abstract 
general idea of man, in the instance assigned, wherein you 
thought you had none. After the same manner, when it is said 
that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones j or 
that colour is the object of sight, it is evident the words do not 
stand for this or that triangle or colour, but for abstract general 
ideas, excluding everything peculiar to the individuals, and 
including only the Universal Nature common to the whole kind 
of triangles or of colours 14 . 

6. Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, are those abstract general ideas 
clear and distinct ? 

Ale. They are above all others clear and distinct, being the 
only proper object of science, which is altogether conversant 
about Universals. 

Euph. And do you not think it very possible for any man to 
know whether he has this or that clear and distinct idea or no ? 

Ale. Doubtless. To know this he needs only examine his own 
thoughts and look into his own mind. 

Euph. But, upon looking into my own mind, I do not find that 
I have or can have these general abstract ideas of a man or a 
triangle above-mentioned, or of colour prescinded from all 
particular colours 14 . Though I shut mine eyes, and use mine 
utmost efforts, and reflect on all that passeth in my own mind, 
1 find it utterly impossible to form such ideas. 

Ale. To reflect with due attention and turn the mind inward 
upon itself is a difficult task, and not every one's talent. 

Euph. Not to insist on what you allowed that every one might 
easily know for himself whether he has this or that idea or no, 
I am tempted to think nobody else can form those ideas any more 

14 [See the 'Introduction* to a Treatise sidered.] AUTHOR. Cf. also New Theory 

concerning the Principles of Human Know- of Vision, sect. 124, 125 ; De Motu passim ; 

ledge, printed in the year 1710, where the and Defence of Free- thinking in Matbe- 

absurdity of abstract ideas is fully con- matics, sect. 4548. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 299 

than I can. Pray, Alciphron, which are those things you would 
call absolutely impossible > 

Ale. Such as include a contradiction. 

Euph. Can you frame an idea of what includes a contradiction ? 

Ale. I cannot. 

Euph. Consequently, whatever is absolutely impossible you 
cannot form an idea of? 

Ale. This 1 grant. 

Euph. But can a colour or triangle, such as you describe their 
abstract general ideas, really exist ? 

Ale. It is absolutely impossible such things should exist in 

Euph. Should it not follow, then, that they cannot exist in your 
mind, or, in other words, that you cannot conceive or frame an 
idea of them ? 

Ale. You seem, Euphranor, not to distinguish between pure 
intellect and imagination 13 . Abstract general ideas I take to be 
the object of pure intellect, which may conceive them, although 
they cannot perhaps be imagined. 

Euph. I do not perceive that I can by any faculty, whether of 
intellect or imagination, conceive or frame an idea of that which 
is impossible and includes a contradiction. And I am very much 
at a loss to account for your admitting that in common instances, 
which you would make an argument against Divine faith and 

7. Ale. There must be some mistake in this. How is it 
possible there should be general knowledge without general 
propositions, or these without general names, which cannot be 
without general ideas by standing for which they become general ? 

Euph. But may not words become general by being made to 
stand indiscriminately for all particular ideas, which, from a 
mutual resemblance, belong to the same kind without the 
intervention of any abstract general idea ? 

Ale. Is there, then, no such thing as a general idea ? 

Euph. May we not admit general ideas though we should not 

15 wfjuaTa and ^dvra(TiJ.ara, as the Greeks which his distinction of pure intellect and 
term the respective products of these- facuU imagination is stated. 
ties. Cf. Berkeley's De Motu, sect. 53, in 

3OO Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

admit them to be made by abstraction, or though we should not 
allow of general abstract ideas ? To me it seems a particular 
idea may become general by being used to stand for or represent 
other ideas; and that general knowledge is conversant about 
signs or general ideas made such by their signification ; and which 
are considered rather in their relative capacity, and as substituted 
for others, than in their own nature, or for their own sake. A 
black line, for instance, an inch long, though in itself particular, 
may yet become universal, being used as a sign to stand for any 
line whatsoever 16 . 

Ah. It is your opinion, then, that words become general by 
representing an indefinite number of particular ideas ? 

Euph. It seems so to me. 

Ale. Whenever, therefore, I hear a general name, it must be 
supposed to excite some one or other particular idea of that species 
in my mind. 

Euph. I cannot say so neither. Pray, Alciphron, doth it seem 
to you necessary that, as often as the word man occurs in reading 
or discourse, you must form in your mind the idea of a particular 

Ale. I own it doth not : and, not finding particular ideas always 
suggested by the words, I was led to think I had abstract general 
ideas suggested by them. And this is the opinion of all thinking 
men, who are agreed the only use of words is to suggest ideas. 
And indeed what other use can we assign them ? 

8. Euph. Be the use of words or names what it will, I can never 
think it is to do things impossible. Let us then inquire what it is ? 
and see if we can make sense of our daily practice. Words, it is 
agreed, are signs : it may not therefore be amiss to examine the 
use of other signs, in order to know that of words. Counters, for 
instance, at a card-table are used, not for their own sake, but only 
as signs substituted for money, as words are for ideas. Say now, 
Alciphron, is it necessary every time these counters are used 
throughout the progress of a game, to frame an idea of the distinct 
sum or value that each represents ? 

16 Indeed, according to Berkeley, all to become things. All sensible phenomena 

knowledge of sensible things is in this are symbols in a Divine Language and 

respect essentially universal. Ideas of sense, this implies universality or reason in nature, 
or sensations, must be universalized in order 

Ifie Seventh Dialogue. 301 

Ale. By no means: it is sufficient the players first agree on 
their respective values, and at last substitute those values in 
their stead. 

Euph. And in casting up a sum, where the figures stand for 
pounds, shillings, and pence, do you think it necessary, throughout 
the whole progress of the operation, in each step to form ideas of 
pounds, shillings, and pence ? 

Ale. I do not ; it will suffice if in the conclusion those figures 
direct our actions with respect to things. 

Euph. From hence it seems to follow, that words may not be 
insignificant, although they should not, every time they are used, 
excite the ideas they signify in our minds ; it being sufficient that 
we have it in our power to substitute things or ideas for their 
signs when there is occasion. It seems also to follow, that there 
may be another use of words besides that of marking and sug- 
gesting distinct ideas, to wit, the influencing our conduct and 
actions ; which may be done either by forming rules for us to act 
by, or by raising certain passions, dispositions, and emotions in 
our minds. A discourse, therefore, that directs how to act or 
excite to the doing or forbearance of an action may, it seems, be 
useful and significant, although the words whereof it is composed 
should not bring each a distinct idea into our minds. 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. Pray tell me, Alciphron, is not an idea altogether 
inactive ? 

Ale. It is 1 ?. 

Euph. An agent therefore, an active mind, or spirit cannot be 
an idea, or like an idea. Whence it should seem to follow that 
those words which denote an active principle, soul, or spirit do 
not, in a strict and proper sense, stand for ideas. And yet they are 
not insignificant neither since I understand what is signified by 
the term I, or myself, or know what it means, although it be no 
idea, or like an idea, but that which thinks, and wills, and appre- 
hends ideas, and operates about them 18 . 

17 Cf. Principles of Human Knowledge, 18 Cf. Principles of Human Knowledge, 

sect. 25; De Motu, sect. 22 in which, as sect. 2, 26, 27. This is the Berkeleian 

in many other passages, the inactivity of dualism, in which the Ego or person is 

sensible things, and ideas of sense, is an- regarded as something deeper than, and 

nounced ; and causation proper referred distinguishable from its ideas, which (espe- 

exclusively to minds, or persons, as dis- cially ideas of sense) are in a great measure 

tinguished from their ideas. beyond its control. 

3O2 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Ale. What would you infer from this ? 

Euph. What hath been inferred already that words may be 
significant, although they do not stand for ideas 1 9. The contrary 
whereof having been presumed seems to have produced the 
doctrine of abstract ideas. 

Ale. Will you not allow then that the mind can abstract? 

Euph. I do not deny it may abstract in a certain sense ; inas- 
much as those things that can really exist, or be really perceived 
asunder, may be conceived asunder, or abstracted one from the 
other for instance, a man's head from his body, colour from 
motion, figure from weight. But it will not thence follow that 
the mind can frame abstract general ideas, which appear to be 

Ale. And yet it is a current opinion that every substantive 
name marks out and exhibits to the mind one distinct idea 
separate from all others. 

Euph. Pray, Alciphron, is not the word number such a substan- 
tive name ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Do but try now whether you can frame an idea of number 
in abstract, exclusive of all signs, words, and things numbered. 
I profess for my own part I cannot. 

Ale. Can it be so hard a matter to form a simple idea of 
number, the object of a most evident demonstrable science? 
Hold, let me see if I cannot abstract the idea of number from 
the numerical names and characters, and all particular numerical 
things. Upon which Alciphron paused awhile, and then said, To 
confess the truth I do not find that I can. 

Euph. But, though it seems neither you nor I can form distinct 
simple Ideas of number, we can nevertheless make a very proper 
and significant use of numeral names. They direct us in the dis- 
position and management of our affairs, and are of such necessary 
use, that we should not know how to do without them. And yet, 
if other men's faculties may be judged by mine, to obtain a precise 
simple abstract idea of number, is as difficult as to comprehend 
any mystery in religion' 20 . 

19 [See the Principles of Human Know- *> Cf. De Moto, sect. 7, 17, 18, 38, 39; 
ledge, sect. 135, and the 'Introduction,' also Analyst, sect. 7,8,47 50, in which 
sect. 20.] AUTHOR. the reasoning is analogous. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 303 

9. But, to come to your own instance, let us examine what idea 
we can frame of force abstracted from body, motion, and outward 
sensible effects. For myself I do not find that I have or can have 
any such idea. 

Ale. Surely every one knows what is meant by force. 

Euph. And yet I question whether every one can form a distinct 
idea of force. Let me entreat you, Alciphron, be not amused by 
terms : lay aside the word force, and exclude eveiy other thing from 
your thoughts, and then see what precise idea you have of force. 

Ale. Force is that in bodies which produces motion and other 
sensible effects. 

Euph. Is it then something distinct from those effects ? 

Ale. It is. 

Euph. Be pleased now to exclude the consideration of its sub- 
ject and effects, and contemplate force itself in its own pre- 
cise idea. 

Ale. I profess I find it no such easy matter. 

Euph. Take your own advice, and shut your eyes to assist your 
meditation. Upon this, Alciphron, having closed his eyes and 
mused a few minutes, declared he could make nothing of it. 

And that, replied Euphranor, which it seems neither you nor 
I can frame an idea of, by your own remark of men's minds and 
faculties being made much alike, we may suppose others have 
no more an idea of than we. 

A/c. We may. 

Euph. But, notwithstanding all this, it is certain there are many 
speculations, reasonings, and disputes, refined subtilties, and nice 
distinctions about this same force 1 - 21 . And to explain its nature, 
and to distinguish the several notions or kinds of it, the terms 
gravity^ reaction^ vis inerti^ vis insita^ vis impressa^ vis mortua^ vis 
viva^ impetus , momentum^ solicit atio^ conatus^ and divers others such-like 
expressions, have been used by learned men : and no small con- 
troversies have arisen about the notions or definitions of these 
terms. It had punled men to know whether force ^ is spiritual or 
corporeal ; whether it remains after action ; how it is transferred 
from one body to another. Strange paradoxes have been framed 

21 Cf. De Motu, passim, with what EU- w With Berkeley, all force or power is 

phranor says here and in the following spiritual, manifested in its sensible effects, 
section ; also Siris, sect. 249. according to physical rules. 

304 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

about its nature, properties, and proportions: for instance, that 
contrary forces may at once subsist in the same quiescent body : 
that the force of percussion in a small particle is infinite' 20 . For 
which, and other curiosities of the same sort, you may consult 
Borellus 24 De VI Percussionis, the Lezhm Academiche of Torricelli 2:> , 
the Exercitations of Hermanus 2f >, and other writers. It is well 
known to the learned world what a controversy hath been carried 
on between mathematicians, particularly Monsieur Leibnitz and 
Monsieur Papin ^, in the Leipsic Acta Eruditorum, about the propor- 
tion of forces : whether they be each to other in a proportion com- 
pounded of the simple proportions of the bodies and the celerities, 
or in one compounded of the simple proportion of the bodies and 
the duplicate proportion of the celerities ? A point, it seems, not 
yet agreed : as indeed the reality of the thing itself is made a 
question. Leibnitz distinguished between the msus element an s^ 
and the Impetus which is formed by a repetition of the nisus elemen- 
tarls^ and seems to think they do not exist in nature, but are made 
only by an abstraction of the mind. The same author, treating 
of original active force, to illustrate his subject, hath recourse 
to the substantial forms and entelecheia of Aristotle. And the 
ingenious Torricelli saith of force and impetus, that they are 
subtle abstracts and spiritual quintessences j and concerning the 
momentum and the velocity of heavy bodies falling, he saith they 
are un certo che^ and un non so che ; that is, in plain English, he 
knows not what to make of them. Upon the whole, therefore, 
may we not pronounce that excluding body, time, space, motion, 
and all its sensible measures and effects^ we shall find it as diffi- 
cult to form an idea of force as of grace ? 
Ale. 1 do not know what to think of it. 

10. Euph. And yet, I presume, you allow there are very evident 
propositions or theorems relating to force, which contain useful 

23 Cf. De Mohi, sect 9 19,67. in 1710 at Marburg, where he was pro- 

a4 Borelli, an eminent Italian physician fessor of mathematics. He contributed 

and mathematician of the seventeenth cen- papers on scientific subjects to the Journal 

tury, professor of mathematics at Pisa, and des Savons, the Philosophical Transactions, 

oi medicine at Florence. and the Acta Eruditorum of Leipsic, and 

25 The inventor of the barometer, another invented the apparatus since known as 
Italian physicist of the seventeenth century. ' Papin's digester/ 

26 A German physician and natural philo- M i.e. excluding the phenomena given in 
sopher in the seventeenth century. sense, which form our concrete or real 

27 A French natural philosopher who died ideas of body, space, time, and motion. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 305 

truths: for instance, that a body with conjunct forces describes 
the diagonal of a parallelogram, in the same time that it would 
the sides with separate. Is not this a principle of very extensive 
use ? Doth not the doctrine of the composition and resolution of 
forces depend upon it, and, in consequence thereof, numberless 
rules and theorems directing men how to act, and explaining 
phenomena throughout the Mechanics and mathematical Philo- 
sophy ? And if, by considering this doctrine or force, men arrive 
at the knowledge of many inventions in Mechanics, and are taught 
to frame engines, by means of which things difficult and other- 
wise impossible may be performed ; and if the same doctrine which 
is so beneficial here below serveth also as a key to discover the 
nature of the celestial motions shall we deny that it is of use, 
either in practice or speculation, because we have no distinct idea 
of force ? Or that which we admit with regard to force, upon 
what pretence can we deny concerning grace? If there are 
queries, disputes, perplexities, diversity of notions and opinions 
about the one, so there are about the other also : if we can form 
no precise distinct idea of the one, so neither can we of the other. 
Ought we not therefore, by a parity of reason, to conclude there 
may be divers true and useful propositions concerning the one as 
well as the other ? And that grace may be an object of our faith, 
and influence our life and actions, as a principle destructive of 
evil habits and productive of good ones, although we cannot 
attain a distinct Idea of it, separate or abstracted from God the 
author, from man the subject, and from virtue and piety its 
effects ? 

IT. Shall we not admit the same method of arguing, the same 
rules of logic, reason, and good sense, to obtain in things spiritual 
and things corporeal, in faith and science ? and shall we not use 
the same candour, and make the same allowances, in examining 
the revelations of God and the inventions of men? For aught 
I see, that philosopher cannot be free from bias and prejudice, or 
be said to weigh things in an equal balance, who shall maintain 
the doctrine of force and reject that of grace, who shall admit the 
abstract idea of a triangle, and at the same time ridicule the Holy 
Trinity. But, however partial or prejudiced other minute philo- 
sophers might be, you have laid down for a maxim that the 

VOL. n. x 

306 A Iciphron, or the Minute Philosopher : 

same logic which obtains in other matters must be admitted in 

Lys. I think, Alciphron, it would be more prudent to abide by 
the way of wit and humour than thus to try religion by the dry 
test of reason and logic. 

Ale, Fear not : by all the rules of right reason, it is absolutely 
impossible that any mystery, and least of all the Trinity, should 
really be the object of man's faith. 

Euph. 1 do not wonder you thought so, as long as you main- 
tained that no man could assent to a proposition without per- 
ceiving or framing in his mind distinct ideas marked by the terms 
of it. But,, although terms are signs, yet having granted that those 
signs may be significant, though they should not suggest ideas 
represented by them provided they serve to regulate and influence 
our wills, passions, and conduct, you have consequently granted 
that the mind of man may assent to propositions containing such 
terms, when it is so directed or affected by them, notwithstanding 
it should not perceive distinct ideas marked by those terms. 
Whence it seems to follow that a man may believe the doctrine 
of the Trinity, if he finds it revealed in Holy Scripture that the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are God, and that there is 
but one God although he doth not frame in his mind any 
abstract or distinct ideas of trinity, substance, or personality pro- 
vided that this doctrine of a Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier 
makes proper impressions on his mind, producing therein love, 
hope, gratitude, and obedience, and thereby becomes a lively 
operative principle, influencing his life and actions, agreeably to 
that notion of saving faith which is required in a Christian. 
This, T say, whether right or wrong, seems to follow from your 
own principles and concessions. But, for further satisfaction, it 
may not be amiss to inquire whether there be anything parallel 
to this Christian faith in the minute philosophy. Suppose a fine 
gentleman or lady of fashion, who are too much employed to think 
for themselves, and are only free-thinkers at second-hand, have the 
advantage of being betimes initiated in the principles of your sect, 
by conversing with men of depth and genius, who have often de- 
clared it to be their opinion, the world is governed either by fate 
or by chance, it matters not which will you deny it possible for 
such persons to yield their assent to either of these propositions ? 

The Seventh Dialogue. 307 

Ah, I will not. 

Euph. And may not such an assent be properly called faith ? 

Ale. It may. 

Euph. And yet it is possible those disciples of the minute 
philosophy may not dive so deep as to be able to frame any 
abstract, or precise, or any determinate idea whatsoever, either 
of fate or of chance ? 

Ale. This too I grant. 

Euph. So that, according to you, this same gentleman or lady 
may be said to believe or have faith where they have not ideas ? 

Ale. They may. 

Euph. And may not this faith or persuasion produce real effects, 
and shew itself in the conduct and tenor of their lives, freeing 
them from the fears of superstition, and giving them a true relish 
of the world, with a noble indolence or indifference about what 
comes after ? 

Ale, It may. 

Euph. And may not Christians, with equal reason, be allowed 
to believe the Divinity of our Saviour, or that in Him God and 
man make one Person, and be verily persuaded thereof, so far as 
for such faith, or belief to become a real principle of life and 
conduct? inasmuch as, by virtue of such persuasion, they submit to 
His government, believe His doctrine, and practise His precepts, 
although they frame no abstract idea of the union between the 
Divine and human nature; nor may be able to clear up the notion 
of person to the contentment of a minute philosopher? To me it 
seems evident that if none but those who had nicely examined, 
and could themselves explain, the principle of Individuation in 
man, or untie the knots and answer the objections which may be 
raised even about human personal Identity, would require of us to 
explain the Divine mysteries, we should not be often called upon 
for a clear and distinct idea of person in relation to the Trinity, 
nor would the difficulties on that head be often objected to 
our faith. 

Ale. Methinks, there is no such mystery in personal Identity. " 

Euph. Pray, in what do you take it to consist ? 

Ale. In consciousness' 29 . 

29 So Locke in his .Essay, Bk. II. ch. 27, which compare with what follows. 

X 2 

308 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

Euph. Whatever is possible may be supposed ? 

Ale. It may. 

Euph. We will suppose now (which is possible in the nature of 
things, and reported to be fact) that a person, through some 
violent accident or distemper, should fall into such a total obli- 
vion as to lose all consciousness of his past life and former ideas. 
I ask, is he not still the same person ? 

Ale. He is the same man, but not the same person. Indeed 
you ought not to suppose that a person loseth its former conscious- 
ness for this is impossible, though a man perhaps may j but then 
he becomes another person. In the same person, it must be 
owned, some old ideas may be lost, and some new ones got ; but 
a total change is inconsistent with identity of person. 

Euph. Let us then suppose that a person hath ideas and is con- 
scious during a certain space of time, which we will divide into 
three equal parts, whereof the later terms are marked by the 
letters A, B, C. In the first part of time, the person gets a 
certain number of ideas, which are retained in A : during the 
second part of time, he retains one half of his old ideas, and loseth 
the other half, in place of which he acquires as many new 
ones: so that in B his ideas are half old and half new. And 
in the third part, we will suppose htm to lose the remainder of the 
ideas acquired in the first, and to get new ones in their stead, 
which are retained in C, together with those acquired in the 
second part of time. Is this a possible fair supposition ? 
Ale. It is. 

Euph. Upon these premises, I am tempted to think one may 
demonstrate that personal identity doth not consist in con- 

Ale. As how ? 

Euph. You shall judge : but thus it seems to me. The persons 
in A and B are the same, being conscious of common ideas by 
supposition. The person in B is (for the same reason) one and 
the same with the person in C. Therefore, the person in A is 
the same with the person in C, by that undoubted axiom, Qjt* 
conveniunt unl tertio conveniunt inter se. But the person in C hath 
no idea in common with the person in A. Therefore personal 
identity doth not consist in consciousness. What do you think, 
Alciphron, is not this a plain inference ? 

The Seventh Dialogue. 309 

Ale. I tell you what I think : you will never assist my faith, by 
puzzling my knowledge. 

12. Euph. There is, if I mistake not, a practical faith, or assent, 
which sheweth itself in the will and actions of a man, although 
his understanding may not be furnished with those abstract, pre- 
cise, distinct ideas, which, whatever a philosopher may pretend, 
are acknowledged to be above the talents of common menj 
among whom, nevertheless, may be found, even according to your 
own concession, many instances of such practical faith, in other 
matters which do not concern religion. What should hinder, 
therefore, but that doctrines relating to heavenly mysteries might 
be taught, in this saving sense, to vulgar minds, which you may 
well think incapable of all teaching and faith, in the sense you 
suppose ? 

Which mistaken sense, said Crito, has given occasion to 
much profane and misapplied raillery. But all this may very 
justly be retorted on the minute philosophers themselves, who 
confound Scholasticism with Christianity, and impute to other 
men those perplexities, chimeras, and inconsistent ideas which 
are often the workmanship of their own brains, and proceed from 
their own wrong way of thinking. Who doth not see that such 
an ideal abstracted faith is never thought of by the bulk of Chris- 
tians, husbandmen, for instance, artisans, or servants ? Or what 
footsteps are there in the Holy Scripture to make us think that 
the wiredrawing of abstract ideas was a task enjoined either Jews 
or Christians ? Is there anything in the law or the prophets, 
the evangelists or apostles, that looks like it ? Every one whose 
understanding is not perverted by science falsely so-called may 
see the saving faith of Christians is quite of another kind a vital 
operative principle, productive of charity and obedience 30 . 

Ale. What are we to think then of the disputes and decisions 
of the famous Council of Nice, and so many subsequent Councils ? 
What was the intention of those venerable Fathers the homoou- 
sians and the homoiousians ? Why did they disturb themselves 
and the world with hard words, and subtle controversies ? 

Cri. Whatever their intention was, it could not be to beget 

30 Cf. Berkeley's Sermon before the S. P. G. 

310 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

nice abstracted ideas of mysteries in the minds of common Chris- 
tians, this being evidently impossible. Nor doth it appear that the 
bulk of Christian men did in those days think it any part of their 
duty to lay aside the words, shut their eyes, and frame those 
abstract ideas ; any more than men now do of force, time, number, 
or several other things, about which they nevertheless believe, 
know, argue, and dispute. To me it seems that, whatever was 
the source of these controversies, and howsoever they were 
managed, wherein human infirmity must be supposed to have had 
its share, the main end was not, on either side, to convey precise 
positive ideas to the minds of men, by the use of those contested 
terms, but rather a negative sense, tending to exclude Polytheism 
on the one hand, and Sabellianism on the other* 1 . 

Ale. But what shall we say of so many learned and ingenious 
divines, who from time to time have obliged the world with new 
explications of mysteries, who, having themselves professedly 
laboured to acquire accurate ideas, would recommend their dis- 
coveries and speculations to others for articles of faith ? 

Cri. To all such innovators in religion I would say with Jerome, 
c Why after so many centuries do you pretend to teach us what 
was untaught before ? Why explain what neither Peter nor Paul 
thought necessary to be explained 3 *?' And it must be owned 
that the explication of mysteries in divinity, allowing the attempt 
as fruitless as the pursuit of the philosopher's stone in chemistry 
or the perpetual motion in mechanics, is no more than they, 
chargeable on the profession itself, but only on the wrongheaded 
professors of it. 

13. It seems, that what hath been now said may be applied to 
other mysteries of our religion. Original sin, for instance, a man 
may find it impossible to form an idea of in abstract, or of the 
manner of its transmission ; and yet the belief thereof may produce 
in his mind a salutary sense of his own unworthiness, and the 
goodness of his Redeemer : from whence may follow good habits, 
and from them good actions, the genuine effects of faith ; which, 
considered in its true light, is a thing neither repugnant nor 
incomprehensible, as some men would persuade us, but suited 

31 [Vid. Sozomen, lib. II. cap. 8.] et Oceanum, de Erroribm Origerris.l 

sa [Hieronym. (Jerome) AdPammacbium 

The Seventh Dialogue. 311 

even to vulgar capacities, placed in the will and affections rather 
than in the understanding, and producing holy lives rather than 
subtle theories. Faith, I say, is not an indolent perception, but 
an operative persuasion of mind, which ever worketh some suit- 
able action, disposition, or emotion in those who have it j as it 
were easy to prove and illustrate by innumerable instances taken 
from human affairs. And, indeed, while the Christian religion is 
considered an institution fitted to ordinary minds, rather than to 
the nicer talents, whether improved or puzzled, of speculative 
men ; and our notions about faith are accordingly taken from the 
commerce of the world, and practice of mankind, rather than 
from the peculiar systems of refiners j it will, I think, be no diffi- 
cult matter to conceive and justify the meaning and use of our 
belief of mysteries, against the most confident assertions and 
objections of the minute philosophers, who are easily to be caught 
in those very snares which they have spun and spread for others. 
And that humour of controversy, the mother and nurse of heresies, 
would doubtless very much abate, if it was considered that things 
are to be rated, not by colour, shape, or stamp, so truly as by the 
weight. If the moment of opinions had been by some litigious 
divines made the measure of their zeal, it might have spared much 
trouble both to themselves and others. Certainly one that takes 
his notions of faith, opinion, and assent from common sense, and 
common use, and has maturely weighed the nature of signs and 
language, will not be so apt to controvert the wording of a 
mystery, or to break the peace of the church, for the sake of 
retaining or rejecting a term. 

[ ;3:i But, to convince you by a plain instance of the efficacious 
necessary use of faith without ideas : we will suppose a man 
of the world, a minute philosopher, prodigal and rapacious, 
one of large appetites and narrow circumstances, who shall 
have it in his power at once to seize upon a great fortune 
by one villanous act, a single breach of trust, which he can 
commit with impunity and secretly Is it not natural to 
suppose him arguing in this manner ? All mankind in their 
senses pursue their interest. The interests of the present life are 
either of mind, body, or fortune. If I commit this fault my mind 

33 This paragraph introduced in second edition, but afterwards omitted in posthumous 
editions. Cf. Dial. 111. sect. 3 16. 

312 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

will be easy (having nought to fear here or hereafter) ; my bodily 
pleasure will be multiplied ; and my fortune enlarged. Suppose 
now, one of your refined theorists talks to him about the harmony 
of mind and affections, inward worth, truth of character, in one 
word, the beauty of virtue ; which is the only interest he can 
propose to turn the scale against all other secular interests and 
sensual pleasures would it not, think you, be a vain attempt ? 
On the other hand, possess him with a thorough belief or per- 
suasion that he shall forfeit eternal happiness, or incur eternal 
misery ; and this alone may suffice to turn the scale. I say, in 
such a juncture what can the most plausible and refined philosophy 
of your sect offer to dissuade such a man from his purpose, more 
than assuring him that the abstracted delight of the mind, the 
enjoyments of an interior moral sense, the TO /caAor, are what 
constitute his true interest ? And what effect can this have on 
a mind callous to all these things, and at the same time strongly 
affected with a sense of corporeal pleasures, and the outward 
interest, ornaments, and conveniences of life ? Whereas that very 
man, do but produce in him a sincere belief of a Future State, 
although it be a mystery, although it be what eye hath not seen, 
nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to 
conceive, he shall, nevertheless, by virtue of such belief, be with- 
held from executing his wicked project and that for reasons which 
all men can comprehend, though nobody can be the object of 
them. I will allow the points insisted on by your refined moralists 
to be as lovely and excellent as you please to a reasonable, re- 
flecting, philosophical mind. But 1 will venture to say that, as 
the world goes, few, very few, will be influenced by them. We 
see, therefore, the necessary use, as well as the powerful effects 
of faith) even where we have not ideas. ~\ 

14. Ale. It seems, Euphranor, you would persuade me into an 
opinion, that there is nothing so singularly absurd as we are apt 
to think in the belief of mysteries; and that a man need not 
renounce his reason to maintain his religion. But, if this were 
true, how comes it to pass that, in proportion as men abound in 
knowledge, they dwindle in faith ? 

Evph. O Alciphron, I have learned from you that there is 
nothing like going to the bottom of things, and analysing them 

The Seventh Dialogue. 313 

into their first principles. I shall therefore make an essay of this 
method, for clearing up the nature of faith : with what success, 
I shall leave you to determine ; for I dare not pronounce myself, 
on my own judgment, whether it be right or wrong: but thus 
it seems to me. The objections made to faith are by no means 
an effect of knowledge, but proceed rather from an ignorance of 
what knowledge is ; which ignorance may possibly be found even 
in those who pass for masters of this or that particular branch of 
knowledge. Science and faith agree in this that they both imply 
an assent of the mind : and, as the nature of the first is most clear 
and evident, it should be first considered in order to cast a light 
on the other. To trace things from their original, it seems that 
the human mind, naturally furnished with the ideas of things 
particular and concrete, and being designed, not for the bare 
intuition 34 of ideas, but for action and operation about them, and 
pursuing her own happiness therein, stands in need of certain 
general rules or theorems to direct her operations in this pursuit ; 
the supplying which want is the true, original, reasonable end of 
studying the arts and sciences. Now, these rules being general, 
it follows that they are not to be obtained by the mere considera- 
tion ;34 of the original ideas, or particular things, but by the means 
of marks and signs, which, being so far forth universal, become 
the immediate instruments and materials of science. It is not, 
therefore, by mere contemplation of particular things, and much 
less of their abstract general ideas, that the mind makes her 
progress, but by an apposite choice and skilful management of 
signs: for instance, force and number -, taken in concrete, with 
their adjuncts, subjects, and signs, are what every one knows ; and 
considered in abstract, so as making precise ideas of themselves, 
they are what nobody can comprehend. That their abstract 
nature, therefore, is not the foundation of science is plain : and 
that barely considering their ideas in concrete, is not the method 
to advance in the respective sciences is what every one that 
reflects may see ; nothing being more evident than that one who can 
neither write nor read, in common use understands the meaning of 
numeral words, as well as the best philosopher or mathematician. 

34 Note this use by Berkeley of 'intui- dividualization ; and also what is said of 
tion' and 'consideration* for presentation the nature and purpose of scientific uni- 
or representation, realization, generic in- versality in what follows. 

314 Alciphron, or the Mimite Philosopher: 

15. But here lies the difference: the one who understands the 
notation'* 5 of numbers, by means thereof is able to express briefly 
and distinctly all the variety and degrees of number, and to 
perform with ease and despatch several arithmetical operations 
by the help of general rules. Of all which operations as the use 
in human life is very evident, so it is no less evident that the 
performing them depends on the aptness of the notation. If we 
suppose rude mankind without the use of language, it may be 
presumed they would be ignorant of arithmetic. But the use of 
names, by the repetition whereof in a certain order they might 
express endless degrees of number, would be the first step towards 
that science. The next step would be, to devise proper marks of 
a permanent nature, and visible to the eye, the kind and order 
whereof must be chosen with judgment, and accommodated to the 
names. Which marking or notation would, in proportion as it 
was apt and regular, facilitate the invention and application of 
general rules to assist the mind in reasoning and judging, in 
extending, recording, and communicating its knowledge about 
numbers: in which theory and operations, the mind is immedi- 
ately occupied about the signs or notes, by mediation of which 
it is directed to act about things, or number in concrete (as the 
logicians call it) without ever considering the simple, abstract, 
intellectual, general idea of number. I imagine one need not 
think much to be convinced that the science of arithmetic, in its 
rise, operations, rules, and theorems, is altogether conversant 
about the artificial use of signs, names, and characters. These 
names and characters are universal, inasmuch as they are signs. 
The names are referred to things, and the characters to names, 
and both to operation. The names being few, and proceeding 
by a certain analogy, the characters will be more useful, the 
simpler they are, and the more aptly they express this analogy. 
Hence the old notation by letters was more useful than words 
written at length. And the modern notation by figures, expressing 
the progression or analogy of the names by their simple places, 
is much preferable to that, for ease and expedition, as the inven- 
tion of algebraical symbols is to this, for extensive and general 
use. As arithmetic and algebra are sciences of great clearness, 
certainty, and extent, which are immediately conversant about 

85 Cf. Aritbmetica, P. I. cap I. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 315 

signs, upon the skilful use and management whereof they entirely 
depend, so a little attention to them may possibly help us to 
judge of the progress of the mind in other sciences, which, though 
differing in nature, design, and object, may yet agree in the 
general methods of proof and inquiry. 

1 6. If I mistake not, all sciences, so far as they are universal 
and demonstrable by human reason, will be found conversant about 
signs as their immediate object though these in the application 
are referred to things. The reason whereof is not difficult to con- 
ceive. For, as the mind is better acquainted with some sort of 
objects, which are earlier suggested to it, strike it more sensibly, 
or are more easily comprehended than others, it is naturally led 
to substitute those objects for such as are more subtile, fleeting, or 
difficult to conceive. Nothing, I say, is more natural, than to 
make the things we know a step towards those we do not know ; 
and to explain and represent things less familiar by others which 
are more so. Now, it is certain we imagine before we reflect, 
and we perceive by sense before we imagine, and of all our senses 
the sight- 36 is the most clear, distinct, various, agreeable, and com- 
prehensive. Hence it is natural to assist the intellect by the 
imagination, the imagination by sense, and the other senses by 
sight. Hence figures, metaphors, and types. We illustrate spi- 
ritual things by corporeal; we substitute sounds for thoughts, and 
written letters for sounds; emblems, symbols, and hieroglyphics, 
for things too obscure to strike, and too various or too fleeting 
to be retained. We substitute things imaginable for things intel- 
ligible, sensible things for imaginable, smaller things for those 
that are too great to be comprehended easily, and greater things 
for such as are too small to be discerned distinctly, present things 
for absent, permanent for perishing, and visible for invisible. 
Hence the use of models and diagrams. Hence right lines are 
substituted for time, velocity, and other things of very different 
natures. Hence we speak of spirits in a figurative style, express- 
ing the operations of the mind by allusions and terms borrowed 
from sensible things, such as apprehend, conceive, reflect, discourse, 
and such-like : and hence those allegories which illustrate things 
intellectual by visions exhibited to the fancy. Plato 3 ?, for in- 

36 Cf. New Theory of Vision 4 Dedication.' ** See Socrates in the Pbadrm. 

3i6 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

stance, represents the mind presiding in her vehicle by the driver 
of a winged chariot, which sometimes moults and droops : and 
is drawn by two horses, the one good and of a good race, the other 
of a contrary kind symbolically expressing the tendency of the 
mind towards the Divinity, as she soars or is borne aloft by 
two instincts like wings, the one in the Intellect towards truth, 
the other in the Will towards excellence, which instincts moult 
or are weakened by sensual inclinations; expressing also her 
alternate elevations and depressions, the struggles between 
reason and appetite, like horses that go an unequal pace, or 
draw different ways, embarrassing the soul in her progress to 
perfection. I am inclined to think the Doctrine of Signs 138 a point 
of great importance, and general extent, which, if duly considered, 
would cast no small light upon Things, and afford a just and 
genuine solution of many difficulties. 

17. Thus much, upon the whole, may be said of all signs: that 
they do not always suggest ideas signified to the mind: that when 
they suggest ideas, they are not general abstract ideas : that they 
have other uses besides barely standing for and exhibiting ideas, 
such as raising proper emotions, producing certain dispositions or 
habits of mind, and directing our actions in pursuit of that happi- 
ness, which is the ultimate end and design, the primary spring 
and motive' 30 , that sets rational agents at work: that the true end 
of speech, reason, science, faith, assent, in all its different degrees, 
is not merely, or principally, or always, the imparting or acquiring 
of ideas, but rather something of an active operative nature, tend- 
ing to a conceived good ; which may sometimes be obtained, not 
only although the ideas marked are not offered to the mind, but 
even although there should be no possibility of offering or exhibit- 
ing any such idea to the mind : for instance, the algebraic mark, 
which denotes the root of a negative square, hath its use in logistic 
operations, although it be impossible to form an idea of any such 
quantity. And what is true of algebraic signs is also true of words 
or language modern algebra being in fact a more short, apposite, 

38 See Locke's Essay, Bk. IV. ch. 21, Actions (TrpoKTm^). With Berkeley, the 

where the doctrine of Signs (o-Tj/uficwTiK^) whole sensible universe is a system of signs, 
is represented as one of the three great heads 3<J Cf. Dial. III. 3 16 ; also Passive 

of Science the other two being the philo- Obedience, sect. 5. 
sophy of Nature (QvortK))), and of human 

The Seventh Dialogue. 317 

and artificial sort of language, and it being possible to express by 
words at length, though less conveniently, all the steps of an 
algebraical process 10 . And it must be confessed that even the 
mathematical sciences 41 themselves, which above all others are 
reckoned the most clear and certain, if they are considered, not 
as instruments to direct our practice, but as speculations to employ 
our curiosity, will be found to fall short in many instances of those 
clear and distinct ideas, which, it seems, the minute philosophers 
of this age, whether knowingly or ignorantly, expect and insist 
upon in the mysteries of religion. 

18. Be the science or subject what it will, whensoever men quit 
particulars for generalities, things concrete for abstractions, when 
they forsake practical views, and the useful purposes of knowledge 
for barren speculation, considering means and instruments as 
ultimate ends, and labouring to attain precise ideas which they 
suppose indiscriminately annexed to all terms, they will be sure 
to embarrass themselves with difficulties and disputes. Such are 
those which have sprung up in geometry about the nature of the 
angle of contact, the doctrine of proportions, of indivisibles, in- 
finitesimals, and divers other points; notwithstanding all which, 
that science is very rightly esteemed an excellent and useful one, 
and is really found to be so in many occasions of human life, 
wherein it governs and directs the actions of men, so that by 
the aid or influence thereof those operations become just and 
accurate which would otherwise be faulty and uncertain. And, 
from a parity of reason, we should not conclude any other doc- 
trines which govern, influence, or direct the mind of man to 
be, any more than that, the less true or excellent, because they 
afford matter of controversy, and useless speculation to curious 
and licentious wits : particularly those articles of our Christian 
faith, which, in proportion as they are believed, persuade, and, 
as they persuade, influence the lives and actions of men. As 
to the perplexity of contradictions and abstracted notions, in all 
parts whether of human science or Divine faith, cavillers may 

40 So Stewart in his Elements on ' Ab- two years afterwards an expansion and 
straction.' illustration of the thought contained in this 

41 Cf. the Analyst and the Defence of Free- sentence and in the following section. 
thinking in Mathematics, passim, published 

318 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

equally object, and unwary persons incur, while the judicious 
avoid it. There is no need to depart from the received rules 
of reasoning to justify the belief of Christians. And if any 
pious men think otherwise, it may be supposed an effect, not 
of religion, or of reason, but only of human weakness. If this 
age be singularly productive of infidels, I shall not therefore 
conclude it to be more knowing, but only more presuming, 
than former ages : and their conceit, I doubt, is not the effect 
of consideration. To me it seems that the more thoroughly 
and extensively any man shall consider and scan the principles, 
objects, and methods of proceeding in arts and sciences, the 
more he will be convinced there is no weight in those plausible 
objections that are made against the mysteries of faith ; which it 
will be no difficult matter for him to maintain or justify in the 
received method of arguing, on the common principles of logic, 
and by numberless avowed parallel cases, throughout the several 
branches of human knowledge, in all which the supposition of 
abstract ideas creates the same difficulties. 

[+*Alc. According to this doctrine, all points may be alike 
maintained. There will be nothing absurd in Popery, not even 

Cri. Pardon me. This doctrine justifies no article of faith 
which is not contained in Scripture, or which is repugnant to 
human reason, which implies a contradiction, or which leads to 
idolatry or wickedness of any kind all which is very different 
from our not having a distinct or an abstract idea of a point.] 

19. Ale. I will allow, Euphranor, this reasoning of yours to 
have all the force you meant it should have. I freely own there 
may be mysteries ; that we may believe where we do not under- 
stand j and that faith may be of use, although its object is not 
distinctly apprehended. In a word, I grant there may be faith 
and mysteries in other things, but not in religion: and that for 
this plain reason, because it is absurd to suppose there should 
be any such thing as religion; and, if there be no religion, it 
follows there cannot be religious faith or mysteries. Religion, it 
is evident, implies the worship of a God, which worship sup- 
poseth rewards and punishments, which suppose merits and 

42 Added in second edition, and omitted in posthumous editions. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 319 

demerits, actions good and evil, and these suppose human liberty " 
a thing impossible : and, consequently, religion, a thing built there- 
on, must be an unreasonable absurd thing. There can be no 
rational hopes or fears where there is no guilt, nor any guilt 
where there is nothing done but what unavoidably follows from 
the structure of the world and the laws of motion. Corporeal 
objects strike on the organs of sense, whence ensues a vibration 
in the nerves, which, being communicated to the soul or animal 
spirit in the brain or root of the nerves, produceth therein that 
motion called volition: and this produceth a new determination 
in the spirits, causing them to flow into such nerves as must 
necessarily by the laws of mechanism produce such certain actions. 
This being the case, it follows that those things which vulgarly 
pass for human actions are to be esteemed mechanical, and that 
they are falsely ascribed to a free principle. There is therefore 
no foundation for praise or blame, fear or hope, reward or punish- 
ment ; nor consequently for religion, which, as I observed before, 
is built upon and supposeth those things. 

Eufh. You imagine, Alciphron, if I rightly understand you, 
that man is a sort of organ played on by outward objects, which, 
according to the different shape and texture of the nerves, produce 
different motions and effects therein. 

Ale. Man may, indeed, be fitly compared to an organ: but a 
puppet is the very thing. You must know that certain particles, 
issuing forth in right lines from all sensible objects, compose so 
many rays, or filaments, which drive, draw, and actuate every 
part of the soul and body of man, just as threads or wires do 
the joints of that little wooden machine vulgarly called a puppet : 
with this only difference, that the latter are gross, and visible to 

43 What follows (sect. 1923), regarding independently. Neither, he says, can be 

Free-will and the moral agency of man, was demonstrated ; for there is always a pos- 

probably in part suggested by the objections sibility that we have been so framed as to 

of Hobbes and Spinoza, but more im- be unavoidably deceived by our experience, 

mediately of Collins, by the controversy alike in our actions, and in our perceptions : 

between Collins and Clarke, as also that our actions may be necessarily determined 

between Clarke and Leibnitz, and by some for us, and our perceptions may be a dream, 

psssages in Shaftesbury's Characteristics. See Clarke's Remarks on Collins, pp. 20, 24. 

See also Cato's Letters (at first subscribed This illustrates the common misinterpreta- 

Diogenes), and Jackson's Defence of Liberty tion of Berkeley's conception of sensible 

( I 7 2 5)- things, confirmed in the anecdote of Clarke's 

It is curious that Dr. Clarke alleges as meeting with Berkeley. See Whiston's Life 

parallel, the evidence that we are agents, and of Clarke, pp. 7881, 133, 134. 
the evidence that the sensible world exists 

32O Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

common eyes, whereas the former are too fine and subtle to be 
discerned by any but a sagacious free-thinker. This admirably 
accounts for all those operations which we have been taught to 
ascribe to a thinking principle within us. 

Euph. This is an ingenious thought, and must be of great use 
in freeing men from all anxiety about moral notions ; as it trans- 
fers the principle of action from the human soul to things outward 
and foreign 44 . But I have my scruples about it. For, you suppose 
the mind in a literal sense to be moved, and its volitions to be 
mere motions. Now, if another should affirm, as it is not im- 
possible some or other may, that the soul is incorporeal, and that 
motion is one thing and volition another, I would fain know how 
you could make your point clear to such a one. It must be owned 
very clear to those who admit the soul to be corporeal, and all her 
acts to be but so many motions. Upon this supposition, indeed, 
the light wherein you place human nature is no less true than 
it is fine and new. But, let any one deny this supposition, which 
is easily done, and the whole superstructure falls to the ground. 
If we grant the above-mentioned points, I will not deny a fatal 
necessity must ensue. But I see no reason for granting them. 
On the contrary, it seems plain that motion and thought arc two 
things as really and as manifestly distinct as a triangle and a 
sound. It seems, therefore, that, in order to prove the necessity 
of human actions, you suppose what wants proof as much as the 
very point to be proved. 

30. Ale. But, supposing the mind incorporeal, I shall, neverthe- 
less, be able to prove my point. Not to amuse you with far- 
fetched arguments, I shall only desire you to look intc* your own 
breast and observe how things pass there, when an object offers 
itself to the mind. First, the understanding considers it : in the 
next place, the judgment decrees about it, as a thing to be 
chosen or rejected, to be omitted or done, in this or that man- 
ner: and this decree of the judgment doth necessarily determine 
the will, whose office is merely to execute what is ordained by 
another faculty : consequently, there is no such thing as freedom 
of the will. For, that which is necessary cannot be ffee. In 

** But without a free personality, or personal agency, in each man, there can, for him, 
be no external world. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 321 

freedom there should be an indifference to either side of the ques- 
tion, a power to act or not to act, without prescription or control : 
and without this indifference and this power, it is evident the will 
cannot be free. But it is no less evident that the will is 
not indifferent in its actions, being absolutely determined and 
governed by the judgment. Now, whatever moves the judgment, 
whether the greatest present uneasiness, or the greatest apparent 
good, or whatever else it be, it is all one' to the point in hand. 
The will, being ever concluded and controlled by the judgment, 
is in all cases alike under necessity. There is, indeed, throughout 
the whole of human nature, nothing like a principle of freedom, 
every faculty being determined in all its acts by something foreign 
to it. The understanding, for instance, cannot alter its idea, but 
must necessarily see it such as it presents itself. The appetites 
by a natural necessity are carried towards their respective objects. 
Reason cannot infer indifferently anything from anything, but is 
limited by the nature and connexion of things, and the eternal 
rules of reasoning. And, as this is confessedly the case of all other 
faculties, so it equally holds with respect to the will itself, as hath 
been already shewn. And, if we may credit the divine Charac- 
terizer of our times, this above all others must be allowed the most 
slavish faculty. < Appetite (saith that noble writer 43 ), which is 
elder brother to Reason, being the lad of stronger growth, is sure, 
on every contest, to take the advantage of drawing all to his own 
side. And Will, so highly boasted, is but at best a foot-ball or top 
between these youngsters, who prove very unfortunately matched ; 
till the youngest, instead of now and then a kick or lash bestowed 
to little purpose, forsakes the ball or top itself, and begins to lay 
about his elder brother/ 

Cri. This beautiful parable for style and manner might equal 
those of a known English writer 1(i in low life, renowned for allegory, 
were it not a little incorrect, making the weaker lad find his 
account in laying about the stronger. 

Ale. This is helped up by supposing the stronger lad the greater 
coward. But, be that as it will, so far as it relates to the point in 
hand, this is a clear state of the case. 

The same point may be also proved from the prescience of 

45 Shaftesbury. See his Characteristics, vol. I. p. 187. w John Bunyan ? 

VOL. ii. Y 

322 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

God. That which is certainly foreknown will certainly be. 
And what is certain is necessary. And necessary actions cannot 
be the effect of free-will. Thus you have this fundamental point 
of our free-thinking philosophy demonstrated different ways. 

Euph. Tell me, Alciphron, do you think it implies a contradic- 
tion that God should make a man free ? 

Ale. I do not. 

Euph. It is then possible there may be such a thing? 

Ale. This I do not deny. 

Euph. You can therefore conceive and suppose such a free 
agent ? 

Ale. Admitting that I can ; what then ? 

Euph. Would not such a one think that he acted ? 

Ale. He would. 

Euph. And condemn himself for some actions, and approve 
himself for others ? 

Ale. This too I grant. 

Euph. Would he not think he deserved reward or punishment? 

Ale. He would. 

Euph. And are not all these characters actually found in man ? 

Ale. They are. 

Euph. Tell me now, what other character of your supposed free 
agent may not actually be found in man ? For, if there is none such, 
we must conclude that man hath all the marks of a free agent. 

Ale. Let me see ! I was certainly overseen in granting it 
possible, even for Almighty power, to make such a thing as a 
free agent. I wonder how I came to make such an absurd con- 
cession, after what had been, as I observed before, demonstrated 
so many different ways. 

Euph. [ 4 ^ Certainly whatever is possible may be supposed: and 
whatever doth not imply a contradiction is possible to an Infinite 
Power : therefore, if a natural agent irriplieth no contradiction, 
such a being may be supposed. Perhaps, from this supposition, 
I might infer man to be free. But I will not suppose him that 
free agent ; since, it seems, you pretend to have demonstrated the 
contrary.] O Alciphron ! it is vulgarly observed that men judge of 
others by themselves. But, in judging of me by this rule, you may 

47 Added in second edition, and omitted in posthumous editions. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 323 

be mistaken. Many things are plain to one of your sagacity, 
which are not so to me, who am often bewildered rather than 
enlightened by those very proofs that with you pass for clear and 
evident. And, indeed, be the inference never so just, yet, so long 
as the premises are not clear, I cannot be thoroughly convinced. 
You must give me leave therefore to propose some questions, the 
solution of which may perhaps shew what at present I am not able 
to discern. 

Ale. I shall leave what hath been said with you, to consider and 
ruminate upon. It is now time to set out on our journey : there 
is, therefore, no room for a long string of question and answer. 

21. Euph. I shall then only beg leave, in a summary manner, to 
make a remark or two on what you have advanced. In the first 
place, I observe you take that for granted which I cannot grant, 
when you assert whatever is certain the same to be necessary. 
To me, certain and necessary seem very different; there being 
nothing in the former notion that implies constraint, nor conse- 
quently which may not consist with a man's being accountable for 
his actions. If it is foreseen that such an action shall be done, may 
it not also be foreseen that it shall be an effect of human choice 
and liberty? In the next place, I observe that you very nicely 
abstract and distinguish the actions of the mind, judgment, and 
will : that you make use of such terms as power, faculty, act, 
determination, indifference, freedom, necessity, and the like, as if 
they stood for distinct abstract ideas: and that this supposition 
seems to ensnare the mind into the same perplexities and errors, 
which, in all other instances, are observed to attend the doctrine 
of abstraction. It is self-evident that there is such a thing as 
motion: and yet there have been found philosophers, who, by 
refined reasoning, would undertake to prove that there was no such 
thing. Walking before them- 18 was thought the proper way to con- 
fute those ingenious men. It is no less evident that man is a free 
agent : and though, by abstracted reasonings, you would pufczle me, 
and seem to prove the contrary, yet, so long as I am conscious 49 of 

48 Solvitur ambulando the human way of human agency, and of the dependent 
of solving ultimate questions. existence of sensible things, in the practical 

49 Berkeley appeals throughout to con- spirit which pervades his life, 
sciousness and common serfse, on behalf alike 

Y 2 

324 Alciphron, or the Mimde Philosopher: 

my own actions, this inward evidence of plain fact will bear me 
up against all your reasonings, however subtle and refined. The 
confuting plain points by obscure ones may perhaps convince me 
of the ability of your philosophers, but never of their tenets. I 
cannot conceive why the acute Cratylus should suppose a power of 
acting in the appetite and reason, and none at all in the will ? 
Allowing, I say, the distinction of three such beings in the mind, 
I do not see how this could be true. But, if I cannot abstract and 
distinguish so many beings in the soul of man so accurately as you 
do, I do not find it necessary ; since it is evident to me, in the gross 
and concrete, that I am a free agent. Nor will it avail to say The 
will is governed by the judgment, or determined by the object, 
while, in every sudden common cause, I cannot discern nor abstract 
the decree of the judgment from the command of the will ; while 
I know the sensible object to be absolutely inert : and lastly, while 
I am conscious that I am an active being, who can and do deter- 
mine myself. If I should suppose things spiritual to be corporeal, 
or refine things actual and real into general abstracted notions, 
or by metaphysical skill split things simple and individual into 
manifold parts, I do not know what may follow. But, if I take 
things as they are, and ask any plain untutored man, whether he 
acts or is free in this or that particular action, he readily assents, 
and I as readily believe him from what I find within. And thus, 
by an induction of particulars, I may conclude man to be a free 
agent, although I may be puzzled to define or conceive a notion of 
freedom in general and abstract. And if man be free, he is plainly 
accountable. But, if you shall define, abstract, suppose, and it shall 
follow that, according to your definitions, abstractions, and suppo- 
sitions, there can be no freedom in man, and you shall thence 
infer that he is not accountable, I shall make bold to depart from 
your metaphysical Abstracted Sense, and appeal to the Common 
Sense of mankind. 

22. If we consider the notions that obtain in the world of guilt 
and merit, praise and blame, accountable and unaccountable, we 
shall find the common question, in order to applaud or censure, 
acquit or condemn a man, is, whether he did such an action ? 
and whether he was himself when he did it ? which comes to the 

50 Shaftesbury. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 325 

same thing. It should seem, therefore, that, in the ordinary com- 
merce of mankind, any person is esteemed accountable simply as 
he is an agent. And, though you should tell me that man is 
inactive, and that the sensible objects act upon him, yet my own 
experience assures me of the contrary. I know I act ; and what I 
act I am accountable for. And, if this be true, the foundation of 
religion and morality remains unshaken. Religion, I say, is con- 
cerned no further than that man should be accountable : and this 
he is according to my sense, and the common sense of the world, 
if he acts ; and that he doth act is self-evident. The grounds, 
therefore, and ends of religion are secured, whether your philo- 
sophic notion of liberty agrees with man's actions or no; and 
whether his actions are certain or contingent the question being 
not, whether he did it with a free will ? or what determined his 
will ? not, whether it was certain or foreknown that he would do 
it? but only, whether he did it wilfully? as what must entitle him 
to the guilt or merit of it. 

Ale. But still, the question recurs, whether man be free ? 

Euph. To determine this question, ought we not at first to 
determine what is meant by the word free ? 

Ale. We ought. 

Euph. In my opinion, a man is said to be free, so far forth as he 
can do what he will. Is this so, or is it not ? 

Ale. It seems so. 

Euph. Man, therefore, acting according to his will, is to be 
accounted free. 

Ale. This 1 admit to be true in the vulgar sense. But a 
philosopher goes higher, and inquires whether man be free 
to will ? 

Euph. That is, whether he can will as he wills ? I know not 
how philosophical it may be to ask this question, but it seems 
very unintelligible^ 1 . The notions of guilt and merit, justice and 
reward, are in the minds of men antecedent to all metaphysical 
disquisitions j and, according to those received natural notions, it 

w It is the practical fact of human agency, tions, accepts the unique fact of activity, 

or moral liberty, and not the metaphysical contained in our concrete experience of mind, 

notion of it, that Berkeley is anxious about. but not of sensible things, and implied in 

He rejects as unintelligible the hypothesis the belief of responsibility which social life 

that each voluntary act is caused by a pre- practically acknowledges, 
vious voluntary act ; and, rejecting abstrac- 

326 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

is not doubted that man is accountable, that he acts, and is self- 

23. But a minute philosopher shall, in virtue of wrong sup- 
positions, confound things most evidently distinct body, for 
instance, with spirit j motion with volition; certainty with ne- 
cessity. And an abstractor or refiner shall so analyse the most 
simple instantaneous act of the mind as to distinguish therein 
divers faculties and tendencies, principles and operations, causes 
and effects ; and, having abstracted, supposed, and reasoned upon 
principles, gratuitous and obscure, he will conclude it is no act 
at all, and man no agent, but a puppet, or an organ played on 
by outward objects, and his will a top or a foot-ball. And this 
passeth for philosophy and free- thinking. Perhaps this may be 
what it passeth for, but it by no means seems a natural or just way 
of thinking. To me it seems that, if we begin from things particular 
and concrete, and thence proceed to general notions and con- 
clusions, there will be no difficulty in this matter. But, if we 
begin with generalities, and lay our foundation in abstract ideas, 
we shall find ourselves entangled and lost in a labyrinth of our 
own making. 1 need not observe, what every one must see, the 
ridicule of proving man no agent v -, and yet pleading for free 
thought and action of setting up at once for advocates of liberty 
and necessity. I have hastily thrown together these hints or 
remarks,, on what you call a fundamental article of the minute 
philosophy, and your method of proving it, which seems to furnish 
an admirable specimen of the sophistry of abstract ideas. If, in 
this summary way, 1 have been more dogmatical than became me, 
you must excuse what you occasioned, by declining a joint and 
leisurely examination of the truth. 

Ah. I think we have examined matters sufficiently. 

Cri. To all you have said against human liberty, it is a sufficient 
answer to observe that your arguments proceed upon an erroneous 
supposition, either of the soul's being corporeal, or of abstract 
ideas [: - ><5 not to mention other gross mistakes and gratuitous 
principles. You might as well suppose that the soul is red or 
blue as that it is solid. You might as well make the will any- 

VJ ' agent,' i.e. free-agent, all action being M Added in second edition, and after- 

voluntary. Cf. * Misatheus* in Guardian, wards omitted in posthumous editions. 
No. 9, with thii sentence. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 327 

thing else as motion. And whatever you infer from such 
premises, which (to speak in the softest manner) are neither 
proved nor probable, I make no difficulty to reject. You dis- 
tinguish in all human actions between the last degree of the 
judgment and the act of the will. You confound certainty with 
necessity: you inquire, and your inquiry amounts to an absurd 
question whether man can will as he wills ? As evidently true 
as is this identical proposition, so evidently false must that way 
of thinking be which led you to make a question of it. You take 
for granted that the mind is inactive, but that its ideas act upon 
it : as if the contrary were not evident to every man of common 
sense, who cannot but know that it is the mind which considers 
its ideas, chooses, rejects, examines, deliberates, decrees, in a 
word acts about them, and not they about it. Upon the whole, 
your premises being obscure and false, the fundamental point, 
which you pretend to demonstrate so many different ways, proves 
neither sense nor truth in any]. And, on the other hand, there is 
not need of much inquiry to be convinced of two points, than 
which none are more evident, more obvious, and more universally 
admitted by men of all sorts, learned or unlearned, in all times 
and places, to wit, that man acts, and is accountable for his 
actions. Whatever abstracters, refiners, or men prejudiced to a 
false hypothesis may pretend, it is, if I mistake not, evident to 
every thinking man of common sense, that human minds are so 
far from being engines or footballs., acted upon and bandied about 
by corporeal objects, without any inward principle of freedom or 
action, that the only original true notions that we have of freedom^ 
agent, or action are obtained by reflecting on ourselves, and the 
operations of our own minds r > 4 . The singularity and credulity of 
minute philosophers, who suffer themselves to be abused by the 
paralogisms of three or four eminent patriarchs of infidelity in the 
last age, is, I think, not to be matched j there being no instance 
of bigoted superstition the ringleaders whereof have been able 
to seduce their followers more openly and more widely from the 
plain dictates of nature and common sense, 

51 Berkeley attributes the notion and spontaneous reference of all motion or change 

belief of causation properly so-called to the in the universe to agency or mind. Cf. 

experience we have of our own agency. De Motu and Siris, passim. 
Accordingly, the causal belief is simply our 

328 AlciphroH) or the Minute Philosopher: 

24. Ale. It has been always an objection against the discoverers 
of truth, that they depart from received opinions. The character 
of singularity is a tax on free-thinking: and as such we most 
willingly bear it, and glory in it. A genuine philosopher is never 
modest in a false sense, to the preferring authority before reason, 
or an old and common opinion before a true one. Which false 
modesty, as it discourages men from treading in untrodden paths, 
or striking out new light, is, above all other qualities, the greatest 
enemy to free-thinking. 

Crl. Authority in disputable points will have its weight with a 
judicious mind, which yet will follow evidence wherever it leads. 
Without preferring, we may allow it a good second to reason. 
Your gentlemen, therefore, of the minute philosophy may spare a 
world of common-place upon reason, and light, and discoveries. 
We are not attached to authority against reason, nor afraid of 
untrodden paths that lead to truth, and are ready to follow a new 
light when we are sure it is no ignis fatuus. Reason may oblige 
a man to believe against his inclinations : but why should a man 
quit salutary notions for others not less unreasonable than per- 
nicious ? Your schemes, and principles, and boasted demonstra- 
tions have been at large proposed and examined. You have 
shifted your notions, successively retreated from one scheme to 
another, and in the end renounced them all. Your objections 
have been treated in the same manner, and with the same event. 
If we except all that relates to the errors and faults of particular 
persons, and difficulties which, from the nature of things, 
we are not obliged to explain ; it is surprising to see, after such 
magnificent threats, how little remains that can amount to a 
pertinent objection against the Christian religion. What you 
have produced has been tried by the fair test of reason; and 
though you should hope to prevail by ridicule when you cannot by 
reason, yet, in the upshot, I apprehend you will find it im- 
practicable to destroy all sense of religion. Make your country- 
men ever so vicious, ignorant, and profane, men will still be 
disposed to look up to a Supreme Being. Religion, right or 
wrong, 'will subsist in some shape or other, and some worship 
there will surely be either of God or the creature. As for your 
ridicule, can anything be more ridiculous than to see the most 
unmeaning men of the age set up for free-thinkers, men so strong 

The Seventh Dialogue. 329 

in assertion, and yet so weak in argument ; advocates for freedom 
introducing a fatality j patriots trampling on the laws of their 
country; and pretenders to virtue destroying the motives of it? 
Let any impartial man but cast an eye on the opinions of the 
minute philosophers, and then say if anything can be more 
ridiculous than to believe such things and at the same time 
laugh at credulity. 

35. Lys. Say what you will, we have the laughers on our side; 
and as for your reasoning I take it to be another name for 

Crt. And I suppose by the same rule you take your own sophisms 
for arguments. To speak plainly, I know no sort of sophism that 
is not employed by minute philosophers against religion. They 
are guilty of a petitio prmctpii, in taking for granted that we believe 
contradictions ; of non causa pro causa^ in affirming that un- 
charitable feuds and discords are the effects of Christianity ; of 
ignoratio clench'^ in expecting demonstrations where we pretend 
only to faith. If I were not afraid to offend the delicacy of polite 
ears, nothing were easier than to assign instances of every kind of 
sophism, which would shew how skilful your own philosophers are 
in the practice of that sophistry you impute to others. 

Euph. For my own part, if sophistry be the art or faculty of 
deceiving other men, I must acquit these gentlemen of it. They 
seem to have led me a progress through atheism, libertinism, 
enthusiasm, fatalism, not to convince me of the truth of any of 
them, so much as to confirm me in my own way of thinking. 
They have exposed their fairy ware not to cheat but divert us. As 
I know them to be professed masters of ridicule, so in a serious 
sense I know not what to make of them. 

Ale. You do not know what to make of us ! I should be sorry you 
did. He must be a superficial philosopher that is soon fathomed. 

26. Crt. The ambiguous character is, it seems, the sure way to 
fame and esteem in the learned world, as it stands constituted at 
present. When the ingenious reader is at a loss to determine 
whether his author be atheist or deist or polytheist, stoic or 
epicurean, sceptic or dogmatist, infidel or enthusiast, in jest or in 
earnest, he concludes him without hesitation to be enigmatical 

330 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

and profound. In fact, it is true of the most admired writers of 
the age, that no man alive can tell what to make of them, or what 
they would be at. 

Ale. We have among us moles that dig deep under ground, and 
eagles that soar out of sight. We can act all parts and become all 
opinions, putting them on or oft* with great freedom of wit and 

Euph. It seems then you are a pair of inscrutable, unfathomable, 
fashionable philosophers. 

Lys. It cannot be denied. 

Euph. But, I remember, you set out with an open dogmatical 
air, and talked of plain principles, and evident reasoning, promised 
to make things as clear as noonday, to extirpate wrong notions 
and plant right in their stead. Soon after, you began to recede 
from your first notions, and adopt others ; you advanced one while 
and retreated another, yielded and retracted, said and unsaid. And 
after having followed you through so many untrodden paths and 
intricate mafces I find myself never the nearer. 

Ale. Did we not tell you the gentlemen of our sect are great 
proficients in raillery ? 

Euph. But, methinks, it is a vain attempt for a plain man of 
any settled belief or principles, to engage with such slippery, 
fugitive, changeable philosophers. It seems as if a man should 
stand still in the same place, while his adversary chooses and 
changes his situation, has full range and liberty to traverse the 
field, and attack him on all sides and in all shapes, from a nearer 
or further distance, on horseback or on foot, in light or heavy 
armour, in close fight or with missive weapons. 

Ale. It must be owned, a gentleman hath great advantage over 
a strait-laced pedant or bigot. 

Euph. But, after all, what am I the better for the conversation of 
two such knowing gentlemen? I hoped to have unlearned my 
errors, and to have learned truths from you, but, to my great dis- 
appointment, I do not find that I am either untaught or taught. 

Ale. To unteach men their prejudices is a difficult task; and 
this must first be done, before we can pretend to teach them the 
truth. Besides, we have at present no time to prove and argue. 

Euph, But suppose my mind white paper; and, without being at any 
pains to extirpate my opinions, or prove your own, only say what you 

The Seventh Dialogue. 331 

would write thereon, or what you would teach me in case I were 
teachable. Be for once in earnest, and let me know some one 
conclusion of yours before we part; or I shall entreat Crito to 
violate the laws of hospitality towards those who have violated the 
laws of philosophy, by hanging out false lights to one benighted in 
ignorance and error. I appeal to you (said he, turning to Crito), 
whether these philosophical knight-errants should not be confined 
in this castle of yours, till they make reparation. 

Euphranor has reason, said Crito, and my sentence is, that you 
remain here in durance till you have done something towards 
satisfying the engagement I am under having promised, he should 
know your opinions from yourselves, which you also agreed to. 

27. Ale. Since it must be so, I will now reveal what I take to 
be the sum and substance, the grand arcanum and ultimate con- 
clusion of our sect, and that in two words, J1ANTA TITOAH^IS. 

Crt. You are then a downright sceptic. But, sceptic as you are, 
you own it probable there is a God, certain that the Christian 
religion is useful, possible it may be true, certain 'that, if it be, 
the minute philosophers are in a bad way. This being the case, 
how can it be questioned what course a wise man should take ? 
Whether the principles of Christians or infidels are truest may be 
made a question ; but which are safest can be none. Certainly if 
you doubt of all opinions you must doubt of your own ; and then, 
for aught you know, the Christian may be true. The more doubt 
the more room there is for faith, a sceptic of all men having the 
least right to demand evidence. But, whatever uncertainty there 
may be in other points, thus much is certain : either there is or 
is not a God : there is or is not a revelation : man either is or is 
not an agent : the soul is or is not immortal. If the negatives 
are not sure, the affirmatives are possible. If the negatives are 
improbable, the affirmatives are probable. In proportion as any 
of your ingenious men finds himself unable to prove any one of 
these negatives, he hath grounds to suspect he may be mistaken. 
A minute philosopher, therefore, that would act a consistent 
part, should have the diffidence, the modesty, and the timidity, as 
well as the doubts of a sceptic ; not pretend to an ocean of light, 
and then lead us to an abyss of darkness. If I have any notion of 
ridicule, this is most ridiculous. But your ridiculing what, for 

332 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

aught you know, may be true, I can make no sense of. It is neither 
acting as a wise man with regard to your own interest, nor as 
a good man with regard to that of your country. 

28. Tully saith somewhere, Aut undique reltgionem tolle, aut usque- 
quayue conserva : Either let us have no religion at all, or let it be 
respected. If any single instance can be shewn of a people that 
ever prospered without some religion, or if there be any religion 
better than the Christian, propose it in the grand assembly of the 
nation to change our constitution, and either live without religion, 
or introduce that new religion. A sceptic, as well as other men, 
is member of a community, and can distinguish between good and 
evil, natural or political. Be this then his guide as a patriot, 
though he be no Christian. Or, if he doth not pretend even to this 
discernment, let him not pretend to correct or alter what he knows 
nothing of: neither let him that only doubts behave as if he could 
demonstrate. Timagoras is wont to say, I find my country in 
possession of certain tenets; they appear to have a useful tendency, 
and as such are encouraged by the legislature ; they make a main 
part of our constitution ; 1 do not find these innovators can dis- 
prove them, or substitute things more useful and certain in their 
stead : out of regard therefore to the good of mankind and the laws 
of my country, I shall acquiesce in them. I do not say Timagoras 
is a Christian, but I reckon him a patriot. Not to inquire in a 
point of so great concern is folly, but it is still a higher degree of 
folly to condemn without inquiring. 

Lysicles seemed heartily tired of this conversation. It is now 
late, said he to Alciphron, and all things are ready for our de- 
parture. Every one hath his own way of thinking; and it is as 
impossible for me to adopt another man's as to make his com- 
plexion and features mine. 

Alciphron pleaded that, having complied with Euphranor^s con- 
ditions, they were now at liberty : and Euphranor answered that, 
all he desired having been to know their tenets, he had nothing 
further to pretend. 

29. The philosophers being gone, I observed to Crito how unac- 
countable it was that men so easy to corffute should yet be so diffi- 
cult to convince. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 333 

This, said Crito, is accounted for by Aristotle, who tells us 
that arguments have not an effect on all men, but only on them 
whose minds are prepared by education and custom, as land is 
for seed r>:> . Make a point never so clear, it is great odds that 
a man whose habits and the bent of whose mind lie in a contrary 
way shall be unable to comprehend it. So weak a thing is reason 
in competition with inclination. 

I replied, This answer might hold with respect to other persons 
and other times ; but when the question was of inquisitive men, 
in an age wherein reason was so much cultivated, and thinking 
so much in vogue, it did not seem satisfactory. 

I have known it remarked, said Crito, by a man of much 
observation, that in the present age thinking is more talked of 
but less practised than in ancient times ; and that since the re- 
vival of learning men have read much and wrote much, but thought 
little : insomuch that with us to think closely and justly is the least 
part of a learned man, and none at all of a polite man. The free- 
thinkers, it must be owned, make great pretensions to thinking, 
and yet they shew but little exactness in it. A lively man, and 
what the world calls a man of sense, are often destitute of this 
talent ; which is not a mere gift of nature, but must be improved 
and perfected by much attention and exercise on very different sub- 
jects ; a thing of more pains and time than the hasty men of parts 
in our age care to take. Such were the sentiments of a judicious 
friend of mine. And if you are not already sufficiently convinced 
of these truths, you need only cast an eye on the dark and confused, 
but nevertheless admired, writers of this famous sect; and then you 
will be able to judge whether those who are led by men of such 
wrong heads can have very good ones of their own. Such, for in- 
stance, wasgmnosa, the great leader of our modern infidels, in whom 
are to be found many schemes and notions much admired and fol- 
lowed of late years : such as undermining religion under the pre- 
tence of vindicating and explaining it: the maintaining it not 
necessary to believe in Christ according to the flesh : the persuading 
men that miracles are to be understood only in a spiritual and alle- 
gorical sense : that vice is not so bad a thing as we are apt to 
think: that men are mere machines impelled by fatal necessity. 

55 [Ethic, ad Nicom. lib. X. cap. 9.] AUTHOR. 

334 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

I have heard, said I, Spinosa represented as a man of close 
argument and demonstration. 

He did, replied Crito, demonstrate but it was after such a 
manner as any one may demonstrate anything. Allow a man 
the privilege to make his own definitions of common words, and 
it will be no hard matter for him to infer conclusions which in 
one sense shall be true and in another false, at once seeming 
paradoxes and manifest truisms. For example, let but Spinosa 
define natural right to be natural power, and he will easily 
demonstrate that c whatever a man can do" he hath a right to do 56 . 
Nothing can be plainer than the folly of this proceeding : 
but our pretenders to the lumen stccum are so passionately pre- 
judiced against religion, as to swallow the grossest nonsense and 
sophistry of weak and wicked writers for demonstration. 

30. And so great a noise do these men make, with their thinking, 
reasoning, and demonstrating, as to prejudice some well-meaning 
persons against all use and improvement of reason. Honest Demea, 
having seen a neighbour of his ruined by the vices of a free- 
thinking son, contracted such a prejudice against thinking that 
he would not suffer his own to read Euclid, being told it might 
teach him to think ; till a friend convinced him the epidemical dis- 
temper was not thinking, but only the want and affectation of it. 
I know an eminent free-thinker who never goes to bed without a 
gallon of wine in his belly, and is sure to replenish before the fumes 
are off his brain, by which means he has not had one sober thought 
these seven years ; another, that would not for the world lose the 
privilege and reputation of free-thinking, who games all night, and 
lies in bed all day : and as for the outside or appearance of thought 
in that meagre minute philosopher Ibycus, it is an effect, not of 
thinking, but of carking, cheating, and writing in an office. 
Strange, said he, that such men should set up for free-thinkers ! 
But it is yet more strange that other men should be out of 
conceit with thinking and reasoning, for the sake of such pre- 

I answered, that some good men conceived an opposition 
between reason and religion, faith and knowledge, nature and 

56 [Tractat. Polit. cap. 2.] AUTHOR. of metaphysics, was imperfectly interpreted 
Spinozism, alike as a system of ethics and when Berkeley wrote. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 335 

grace ; and that, consequently, the way to promote religion 
was to quench the light of nature and discourage all rational 

31. How right the intentions of these men may be, replied 
Crito, I shall not say ; but surely their notions are very wrong. 
Can anything be more dishonourable to religion than the repre- 
senting it as an unreasonable, unnatural, ignorant institution ? 
God is the Father of all lights, whether natural or revealed. Natural 
concupiscence is one thing, and the light of nature another. You 
cannot therefore argue from the former against the latter : neither 
can you from science, falsely so called, against real knowledge. 
Whatever, therefore, is said of the one in Holy Scripture is not to 
be interpreted of the other. 

I insisted that human learning in the hands of divines had, 
from time to time, created great disputes and divisions in the 

As abstracted metaphysics - r> 7, replied Crito, have always a ten- 
dency to produce disputes among Christians, as well as other men, 
so it should seem that genuine truth and knowledge would allay 
this humour, which makes men sacrifice the undisputed duties of 
peace and charity to disputable notions. 

After all, said I, whatever may be said for reason, it is plain 
the sceptics and infidels of the age are not to be cured by it. 

1 will not dispute this point, said Crito : in order to cure a 
distemper, you should consider what produced it. Had men 
reasoned themselves into a wrong opinion, one might hope to 
reason them out of it. But this is not the case j the infidelity 
of most minute philosophers seeming an effect of very different 
motives from thought and reason. Little incidents, vanity, disgust, 
humour, inclination, without the least assistance from reason, are 
often known to make infidels. Where the general tendency of a 
doctrine is disagreeable, the mind is prepared to relish and improve 
everything that with the least pretence seems to make against 
it. Hence the coarse manners of a country curate, the polite 
manners of a chaplain, the wit of a minute philosopher, a jest, a 
song, a tale can serve instead of a reason for infidelity. Bupalus 

57 Cf. Berkeley's Sermon before the abstractions of metaphysics throughout his 
S. P. G.; and his warnings against the metaphysical writings. 

336 Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

preferred a rake in the church, and then made use of him as an 
argument against it. Vice, indolence, faction, and fashion 
produce minute philosophers, and mere petulancy not a few. Who 
then can expect a thing so irrational and capricious should yield 
to reason ? It may, nevertheless, be worth while to argue against 
such men, and expose their fallacies, if not for their own sake, 
yet for the sake of others; as it may lessen their credit, and 
prevent the growth of their sect, by removing a prejudice in their 
favour, which sometimes inclines others as well as themselves to 
think they have made a monopoly of human reason. 

33. The most general pretext which looks like reason is taken 
from the variety of opinions about religion. This is a resting- 
stone to a lafcy and superficial mind. But one of more spirit and a 
juster way of thinking makes it a step whence he looks about, and 
proceeds to examine, and compare the differing institutions of 
religion. He will observe which of these is the most sublime and 
rational in its doctrines, most venerable in its mysteries, most 
useful in its precepts, most decent in its worship ? which createth 
the noblest hopes, and most worthy views ? He will consider 
their rise and progress : which oweth least to human arts or arms ? 
which flatters the senses and gross inclinations of men ? which 
adorns and improves the most excellent part of our nature ? 
which hath been propagated in the most wonderful manner ? 
which hath surmounted the greatest difficulties, or shewed the 
most disinterested zeal and sincerity in its professors ? He will 
inquire, which best accords with nature and history? He will 
consider, what savours of the world, and what looks like wisdom 
from above ? He will be careful to separate human alloy from 
that which is Divine ; and, upon the whole, form his judgment like 
a reasonable free-thinker. But, instead of taking such a rational 
course, one of these hasty sceptics shall conclude without demur- 
ring there is no wisdom in politics, no honesty in dealings, no 
knowledge in philosophy, no truth in religion ; and all by one and 
the same sort of inference, from the numerous examples of folly, 
knavery, ignorance, and error which are to be met with in the 
world. But, as those who are unknowing in everything else 
imagine themselves sharpsighted in religion, this learned sophism 
is oftenest levelled against Christianity. 

The Seventh Dialogue. 337 

33. In my opinion, he that would convince an infidel who can 
be brought to reason ought in the first place clearly to convince 
him of the being of a God it seeming to me, that any man who 
is really a Theist, cannot be an enemy to the Christian religion ; 
and that the ignorance or disbelief of this fundamental point is 
that which at bottom constitutes the minute philosopher 58 . I 
imagine they who are acquainted with the great authors in the 
minute philosophy need not be told of this. The being of a God 
is capable of clear proof, and a proper object of human reason : 
whereas the mysteries of His nature, and indeed whatever there is 
of mystery in religion, to endeavour to explain and prove by 
reason 5 9 i s a vain attempt. It is sufficient if we can shew there is 
nothing absurd or repugnant in our belief of those points, and, 
instead of framing hypotheses to explain them, we use our reason 
only for answering the objections brought against them. But, on 
all occasions, we ought to distinguish the serious, modest, in- 
genuous man of sense, who hath scruples about religion, and 
behaves like a prudent man in doubt, from the minute philoso- 
phers, those profane and conceited men, who must needs prose- 
lyte others to their own doubts. When one of this stamp presents 
himself, we should consider what species he is of: whether a first 
or a second-hand philosopher, a libertine, scorner, or sceptic? 
Each character requiring a peculiar treatment. Some men are too 
ignorant to be humble, without which there can be no docility. 
But though a man must in some degree have thought, and con- 
sidered, to be capable of being convinced, yet it is possible the 
most ignorant may be laughed out of his opinions. I knew a 
woman of sense reduce two minute philosophers, who had long 
been a nuisance to the neighbourhood, by taking her cue from 
their predominant affectations. The one set up for being the 
most incredulous man upon earth, the other for the most un- 
bounded freedom. She observed to the first, that he who had 
credulity sufficient to trust the most valuable things, his life and 

58 Cf. Dial. I. sect. 8, 9 ; Theory of turns to practical reason and moral evi- 

Vision Vindicated, sect. 2 8. dence for the positive support of Christian 

w i.e. by speculative reasoning, evolved faith. Religion is rooted in human nature 

from a priori principles, which Berkeley as a whole, but it cannot be derived from 

here employs only negatively to shew that the merely scientific intelligence or lumen 

religious mysteries, on the received rules of siccnm. 
reasoning, are in themselves possible. He 

VOL. II. 2. 

Alciphron, or the Minute Philosopher: 

fortune, to his apothecary and lawyer, ridiculously affected the 
character of incredulous by refusing to trust his soul, a thing in 
his own account but a mere trifle, to his parish priest. The other, 
being what you call a beau, she made sensible how absolute a slave 
he was in point of dress, to him the most important thing in the 
world, while he was earnestly contending for a liberty of thinking, 
with which he never troubled his head ; and how much more it 
concerned and became him to assert an independency on fashion, 
and obtain scope for his genius where it was best qualified to 
exert itself. The minute philosophers at first hand are very few, 
and, considered in themselves, of small consequence : but their 
followers, who pin their faith upon them, are numerous, and not 
less confident than credulous; there being something in the air 
and manner of these second-hand philosophers very apt to dis- 
concert a man of gravity and argument, and much more difficult 
to be borne than the weight of their objections. 

34. Crito having made an end, Euphranor declared it to be his 
opinion, that it would much conduce to the public benefit, if, 
instead of discouraging free-thinking, there was erected in the 
midst of this free country a Dianoetic Academy, or seminary for 
free-thinkers, provided with retired chambers, and galleries, and 
shady walks and groves, where, after seven years spent in silence 
and meditation, a man might commence a genuine free-thinker, 
and from that time forward have licence to think what he pleased, 
and a badge to distinguish him from counterfeits. 

In good earnest, said Crito, I imagine that thinking is the 
great desideratum of the present age; and that the real cause of 
whatever is amiss may justly be reckoned the general neglect of 
education in those who need it most the people of fashion. 
What can be expected where those who have the most influence 
have the least sense, and those who are sure to be followed set the 
worst example ? where youth so uneducated are yet so forward ? 
where modesty is esteemed pusillanimity, and a deference to 
years, knowledge, religion, laws, want of sense and spirit ? Such 
untimely growth of genius would not have been valued or en- 
couraged by the wise men of antiquity ; whose sentiments on this 
point are so ill suited to the genius of our times that it is to be 
feared modern ears could not bear them. But, however ridiculous 

The Seventh Dialogue. 339 

such maxims might seem to oi^r British youth, who are so capable 
and so forward to try experiments, and mend the constitution of 
their country, I believe it will be admitted by men of sense that, 
if the governing part of mankind would in these days, for experi- 
ment's sake, consider themselves in that old Homerical light as 
pastors of the people, whose duty it was to improve their flock, 
they would soon find that this is to be done by an education very 
different from the modern, and other-guess maxims than those of 
the minute philosophy. If our youth were really inured to thought 
and reflection, and an acquaintance with the excellent writers of 
antiquity, we should soon see that licentious humour, vulgarly 
called free-thinking^ banished from the presence of gentlemen, 
together with ignorance and ill taste; which as they are in- 
separable from vice, so men follow vice for the sake of pleasure, 
and fly from virtue through an abhorrence of pain. Their minds, 
therefore, betimes should be formed and accustomed to receive 
pleasure and pain from proper objects, or, which is the same thing, 
to have their inclinations and aversions rightly placed. Ka\o>s 
Xai'peti' i] fjiivtiv. This, according to Plato and Aristotle, was the 
6p6i] Trat&efo, the right education 60 . And those who, in their own 
minds, their health, or their fortunes, feel the cursed effects of 
a wrong one, would do well to consider, they cannot make better 
amends for what was amiss in themselves than by preventing 
the same in their posterity. 

While Crito was saying this, company came in, which put an 
end to our conversation. 

60 [Plato i Protag., and Arist. Ethic, ad Nicom., lib. II. cap. 2, and lib. X. cap. 9.] 



SIJtIS Berkeley's ' Chain of philosophical reflexions and inquiries 
presents his metaphysical philosophy in its latest form, as it was 
when he was about sixty years of age. More than thirty years had 
then elapsed since he had analyzed the meaning of the word Exter- 
nality, in the Principles of Human Knowledge ; and more than twenty 
since he had unfolded, in the De Motu, thoughts about Causation, 
which prepare the reader for the Chain that here connects the sup- 
posed medicinal virtues of Tar-water with the throne of the Divine 
Ruler of the universe. In the interval, more than ten years before the 
date of Sin's, he had defended his early philosophy, in defending his 
New Theory of Vision ; and had in Aldphron diffused the same 
philosophy through that popular vindication of Christian theism and 
morality. Now, in 1744, his philosophy, developed and enriched by 
much reading and meditation, is made to crown a philanthropic treatise 
in Medicine. 

Sin's y regarded as a philosophical essay, is an exposition, on the 
basis of Ancient Philosophy, of Berkeley's spiritual theory of cause 
and substance in which the whole phenomenal world, past, present, 
and future, is conceived in necessary dependence upon active Mind. 
It proclaims that sensible existence, and indeed existence as such, 
centres in conscious intelligence. Its chain of ' philosophical reflexions 
and inquiries' is the strangest, yet among the most characteristic, of all 
Berkeley's works. On the whole, the scanty speculative literature of 
these islands in last century contains no other work nearly so remark- 
able ; although curiously it has been much overlooked even by those 
curious in the history and bibliography of British philosophy. Every 
time we open its pages we find fresh seeds of thought. There is the 
unexpectedness of genius in its whole movement. It breathes the spirit 
of Plato and the Neoplatonists, in the least Platonic generation of 


English history since the revival of letters, and it draws this Platonic 
spirit from a thing of sense so commonplace as Tar. It connects tar 
with the highest thoughts in metaphysics and theology, by links which 
involve some of the most subtle botanical, chemical, physiological, 
optical, and mechanical speculations of its time. Its immediate aim is 
to confirm rationally the benevolent conjecture, that tar yields a * water 
of health' fitted to remove, or at least to mitigate, all the diseases of our 
organism in this mortal state, and to convey fresh supplies of the very 
vital essence itself into the animal creation. Its successive links of 
physical science are gradually connected, first, with the ancient and 
modern literature of the Philosophy of Fire, and, next, with the medi- 
tations of the greatest of the ancients, about the substantial and causal 
dependence of the universe upon conscious Mind. In one view Stn's 
may be looked at as a gracefully contrived Commonplace Book, into 
which the fruits of the learned meditation of Berkeley's whole previous 
life, regarding the sensible world and its spiritual cause, were gathered, 
and in which, with earnest and eloquent reiteration, they are expressed 
more in a contemplative than in an argumentative spirit and form. It 
is a chain of aphorisms, in which the connexion is produced by the 
quaintest and most subtle associations. The speculations of the deepest 
thinkers, ancient and modern, blend themselves with the successive links, 
and the whole forms a series of studies, as well in physical science as 
in Greek and Eastern philosophy. 

When we pass into Sin's from the three juvenile tracts in which 
Berkeley reasoned out, with an enthusiasm still fervid in his advanced 
age, his theory of vision, and his doctrine of the ideal or phenomenal 
nature of sensible things, we find ourselves transported from Locke's 
practical to the Platonic, or Neoplatonic, dialectical and physical point of 
view ; also to the ancient conception of a gradation in existence, and of 
the constant animation of the whole material world. We exchange the 
society of the courageous young Dublin student, joyfully awakened to 
a great discovery, which was for ever to expel mere abstractions from 
science, for that of the matured companion of ancient sages, who had 
been taught by much philosophical experience that one 'who would 
make a real progress in knowledge, must dedicate his age as well as 
youth, the later growth as well as the first fruits, at the altar of 
truth ;' and who had also gradually learned that 'through the dusk of 
our gross atmosphere/ in this life of sense, 'the sharpest eye cannot 
see clearly.' 

This modification of tone, and the particular occasion of its mani- 


festation in an essay suggested by tar-water, are both explained 
when we review the circumstances in which St'rts originated. During 
the sixteen years which preceded its publication, Berkeley lived much 
alone, among his books, first in Rhode Island, and afterwards in his 
secluded diocese of Cloyne ; for the most part too in indifferent health. 
In his study, Plato and the Neoplatonists became his favourite com- 
panions ; while out of doors, among the poor of his diocese, he was, in 
these early years of his residence, as we gather from bis Correspondence, 
surrounded in an unusual degree by suffering and disease. We find him 
in every period of his life fond of natural science, and apt to yield 
to the very original trains of thought which physical facts raised in 
his mind. In his 'remote corner' at Cloyne the sufferings of his 
neighbours suggested the remedy of Tar-water, of which he had heard 
on the other side of the Atlantic, and which, as he tried it in different 
kinds of disease, seemed to grow under his hand into a Universal 
Medicine. *I do not/ he modestly conjectures 1 , I do not say that 
it is a Panacea; I only suspect it to be so time and trial will show/ 

The mere suspicion of a discovery so wonderful sustained by 
many alleged facts, and by ingenious reasoning, in the 119 opening 
sections of Sin's was enough to set Berkeley's thoughts agoing about 
the probable physical cause of tar-water being the cure for our cor- 
poreal ills in this prison of the body. Tar, to begin with, is pro- 
duced from the vegetable world, in modes described (sect. 10 28). 
This leads him on to an inquiry into Vegetable Life, especially in 
those organisms, such as pines and firs, from which chiefly tar is pro- 
duced (sect. 29 38). We are thus, in the opening part of Sin's, 
conducted through the region of Vegetable Physiology and Botany, 
in company with Theophrastus and Pliny, Jonstonus, John Evelyn, 
and that * curious anatomist of plants/ Dr. Nehemiah Grew. Firs and 
pines, we are here told, have this peculiarity, that they secrete co- 
piously an alimentary juice, which consists of oily, aqueous, and 
saline particles. This, 'by the economy of the plant, and the action 
of the sun is strained and concocted into an inspissated oil or bal- 
sam^ the oil being in these trees unusually abundant, and also tena- 
cious of the ' acid spirit or vegetable soul ; ' so that when exalted and 
enriched by the solar action, it is found to be charged with ' a most noble 
medicine, the last and best product of a tree perfectly maturated by time 
and sun' (sect. 38). Cures, in an immense variety of diseases, are accord- 

1 Firsf Letter to Thomas Prior, on the Virtues of Tar-water. Sect. 22. 


ingly attributed to this Vegetable Acid, when it has been drawn from 
tar by the menstruum of water (sect. 2 7, 60 119). 

Meditation upon the * acid spirit or vegetable soul/ ' sheathed in 
its thin volatile oil/ so readily withdrawn from tar by water, opens 
the way to more general questions about Acids or Volatile Salts. We 
are thus brought (sect. 120) to chemical phenomena and their laws, 
and are led in the following sections to theorize in Chemistry. Appeals 
are made to Sir Isaac Newton, Boerhaave, Homberg, and Boyle, as 
chemical authorities on the doctrine of acids, alkalis, and salts (sect. 
126 136). Some curious, old-fashioned chemistry, derived in a great 
measure from Homberg, is offered to the reader in this part of Sin's, 
as well as in what follows. 

As 'the acid spirit or salt, that mighty instrument in the hand of 
nature/ is supposed to reside in Air, and to be diffused through that 
whole element, the train of thought next passes through the atmosphere 
(sect. 137 151) * the receptacle as well as source of all sublunary 
forms' ' the common seminary of all vivifying principles.' Air is as- 
sumed, according to an ancient opinion, to be * a collection or treasury 
of active principles, through which a latent vivifying spirit is diffused' 
the unique ingredient on which life immediately depends. The hetero- 
geneous elements of the atmosphere are, it is alleged, united by this 
active, subtle substance called invisible Fire, Light, uEther, or the Vital 
Spirit of the Universe with which the Acid extracted by water from tar 
is charged. 

We pass, accordingly, (sect. 152) from the physical speculation of 
Air to the physical and semi-metaphysical speculation of this invisible 
Fire or ^Ether the vital spirit of the whole sensible universe, the 
principle which corresponds in Nature the macrocosm, to the animal 
spirit in Man the microcosm (sect. 152 165). The ancient biological 
conception of the universe with its universal soul (anima mundi) is then 
accommodated to this ' Philosophy of Fire/ and contrasted with the 
lifeless, mechanical science against which Berkeley everywhere protests. 
Much of his curious learning is employed (sect. 166 205) in defending 
a supreme physical science of Vitalized Fire. Some of the highest 
authorities are adduced Heraclitus (its chief source in Greece), Plato, 
the Peripatetics, Theophrastus, the Stoics, Plotinus, the Hermic writers, 
and Hippocrates, not to speak of the Eastern philosophers, among the 
ancients; with Sir Isaac Newton, Homberg, Boerhaave, Hales, Nieu- 
wentyt, and Dr. Willis, among other moderns. Berkeley tells us elsewhere 2 

8 See First Letter to Thomas Prior, on the Virtues of Tar-water. Sect. I& 


that he had ' for a long time entertained an opinion, agreeable to the 
sentiments of many ancient philosophers that Fire may be regarded as 
the Animal Spirit of this visible world/ How he came to entertain 
this opinion he does not say. It is in Sin's that it first distinctly appears 
in his works. Vital Fire is there the physical chain by which all 
sensible changes are concatenated. 

For, this Fire or ^Ether this 'luminous spirit' is still with him 
corporeal and physical, not incorporeal and metaphysical (sect. 206 
213); although it is all pervading, and governed by wonderful laws 
assigned to it on ancient and modern authority. In various modes and 
degrees, it is diffused through plants ; and, especially after ' a lodg- 
ment in the native balsam of pines and firs/ it finds its way be- 
nignly and beneficially into the human constitution, so as to ' warm 
without heating, to cheer but not inebriate' (sect. 217). We are warned 
that Sir Isaac Newton's elastic ^Gther is not to be confounded with this 
invisible animated Fire or ^Ether ; nor is this last subject to those laws 
of attraction and repulsion which play the governing part in the New- 
tonian physics (sect. 221 230). 

Thus far Berkeley's Chain is physical. But he takes for granted 
that a chain that is only this cannot support itself. Neither elastic ^Ether, 
nor Attraction and Repulsion can in themselves really account for natural 
changes, whether mechanical, chemical, or vital. All sensible phenomena, 
with all their merely physical or instrumental causes, presuppose the 
perpetual operation of Intelligence (sect. 231 238; see also sect. 153, 
*55> J 6o, 161). Philosophy, properly so called, must be spiritual and 
not mechanical; the facts and laws of physical science are but the 
sensible or contingent expression of Divine Thoughts (sect. 251 264). 
Active Intelligence is, in short, with Berkeley, the only summary or 
metaphysical explanation of the universe. Supreme Mind alone is the 
' golden chain ' of a Catholic Philosophy. 

The last hundred sections of Sin's accumulate ancient authorities on 
behalf of this spiritual principle, which, in its eccentric transformations, 
here appears reflected through the greatest minds of the ancient world. 
These sections connect, by suggestion, early with recent speculation the 
anticipations of Pythagoras, Parmenides, Plato, and Plotinus with their 
developments in the modern German thought of Leibnitz, Schelling, 
and Hegel. The last hundred sections of Sins are probably the near- 
est approach by native British mind in last century to Philosophy 


[according to the conception of these ancient and modern sages. In 
,'each section a grain of gold may be found, and the grains multiply as 
^we advance. In this whole stratum we find ourselves in the very centre 
of the auriferous deposit. 

Absolute Space and sensible Space blind Fate and spiritual Fate 
Anima Mundi Pantheism and Atheism the antithesis and synthesis of 
Sense and Intelligence the actual and the potential existence of Matter 
Deity, with the origin and various phases of that conception divine 
and human Personality the Divine Ideas of Platonism the Trinity 
of Personality, Reason, and Life, are all pondered in succession ; and the 
reader is carried through the reported thought, on these deep themes, 
of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus, Plotinus, Jamblicus, Proclus, 
Themistius, Simplicius, and the Hermic writers. 

Berkeley, first of all, discerns the outlines of his own spiritual theory 
of the sensible universe in the dim intuitions of ancient Greek and 
Egyptian philosophy (sect. 266 269), with which he feels more in har- 
mony than with the mechanical and materialistic science by which he was 
surrounded in his own age and country. The ancient notions of Space 
and of Fate, for instance, seem to him deeper than the modern, and 
naturally open to a spiritual interpretation (sect. 270 273). 

In the modern ' phantom' of an absolute or uncreated Space, when dis- 
tinguished from visible and tangible extension derived neither from 
sense nor intellect (sect. 271 318), and therefore with Berkeley a mere 
negation, the result of \oyia-pos v60os (sect. 306, 318) he sees the source 
of the other modern ' phantoms ' of irrelative Matter, and blind Fate 
'children of imagination grafted upon sense' (sect. 292) with all their 
sceptical and immoral consequences. He even prefers, as more spiri- 
tual, the inclination of the early thinkers to personify the universe, or 
at least to represent it as animated (sect. 273 287) ; seeing in this 
at the worst a one-sided expression of his own favourite doctrine of an 
immediate and perpetually acting Divine Providence. The doctrine of an 
Anima Mundi, presented in various forms by Egyptian, Greek, and Alex- 
andrian philosophy, harmonizes with his adopted theory of an animating 
Fire, ' the living, omniform, seminary of the world ;' and also with the 
uniform teaching of his life, as to the impossibility of Matter being a 
cause, and the need for referring all sensible changes to the agency of 
Mind. God, or Supreme Mind, is thus (as it were) the Intelligible Soul 
of the world, by whose perpetual and pervading activity all things are 
connected in the unity of a Golden Chain the complicated links of 
which human science, with weak and faltering hand, tries to display in 
their true order. 


In this conception of the universe, all things centre in the unity of 
Mind, which substantiates and causes all. This is really To *EI/ THE 
ONE of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks (sect. 287 295), which 
is to all created beings the source of unity and identity, of harmony and 
order, existence and stability. ' It is neither acid nor salt, nor sulphur, 
nor air, nor aether, nor visible corporeal fire, much less the phantom fate 
or necessity, that is the real agent, but, by a certain analysis, a regular 
connexion and climax, we ascend through all these mediums to a glimpse 
of the First Mover, invisible, incorporeal, unextended, intellectual source 
of life and being' (sect. 296). 

Thus, by a Chain of many links, we pass from the one extreme of 
gross Sense, to the other extreme of pure Intelligence ; the relations or 
truths of which last are a new and really divine object of contemplation. 
Accordingly, after the example of great authorities among the ancients, 
ill relished perhaps by modern readers, Berkeley proceeded, in what at 
the outset was a book in physics, to ponder the metaphysical and divine ; 
drawing his reader, ' by insensible transitions, into remote inquiries and 
speculations, that were perhaps not thought of, either by him or by the 
author, at first setting out'' (sect. 297). 

1 Theology and Philosophy gently unbind the ligaments that chain the 
soul down to the earth, and assist her flight toward the sovereign good ' 
(sect. 302). Let us then, Berkeley says in effect in what follows, let us 
rise from* our fallen state by meditating with the theological philosopher 
on that contrast and yet correlation of Sense and Intelligence, Being 
and Knowing, the Many and the One, Changes and the Permanent, 
the Individual and the Universal, which lies at the root of whatever is, and 
which, in these and like modes of conception, has engaged the deepest 
thinkers in distant ages and countries (sect. 301 310). Plato and Aris- 
totle, as he interprets them, did not assign to sensible things an absolute 
existence, abstracted from all conscious Intelligence. With those ancient 
sages, Matter is at the most a blind, indefinable negation, which, even 
with Aristotle, has in itself only a potential, not an actual existence (sect. 
311 319). ' Neither Plato nor Aristotle/ he concludes, 'by Matter 
understood corporeal substance/ To them it signified no positive, actual 
being. According to these philosophers, Matter is only pura potentia 
a mere possibility and defect ; and, ' since God is absolute perfection 
and act, it follows that there is the greatest opposition and distance 
imaginable between God and Matter' (sect. 319). 

What then is God? This is the next question which the train of 
thought suggests. It leads (sect. 320 329) to a restatement of the 
theory of Power and Causation which runs through, and is the very 


essence of all Berkeley's philosophy. A cause is to be distinguished from 
its effects ; and the Supreme Mind, how closely connected soever with 
the universe of sensible phenomena in which His Ideas are expressed, 
is not to be confounded with these phenomena. He is ' a really exist- 
ing Spirit, distinct or separate from all corporeal and sensible things ' 
(sect. 323). A liberal toleration is indeed conceded by Berkeley to the 
varied forms of words which thoughtful men, in the different religions of 
the world, have used to express the correlation of God and the finite uni- 
verse, and these closing sections of Sin's foreshadow comparative theology. 
If we should even say that all things make one God, this would, he thinks, 
be perhaps a misleading way of expressing the truth, but should not be 
regarded as atheistic, 'so long as Mind or Intellect was admitted to be 
TO yycpoviKov, the governing part' (sect. 288). 'It is nevertheless/ he 
adds, 'more respectful, and consequently the truer notion of God, to 
suppose Him neither made up of parts, nor to be Himself a part of any 
Whole whatever/ When we find Platonic and Aristotelian philosophers 
speaking of God as ' mixing with ' or ' pervading ' nature and the 
elements, he explains this as referring not to a commixture in the way 
of space or extension, but in the way of pervasive power, or universal 
Providence. For, the term extension is never applied to mind by Plato 
and Aristotle, spiritual things being with them ' distant ' from one another 
not by place but, as Plotinus says, by ' alter ity* (sect. 329). 

As the best help in the endeavour to rise in contemplation above 
the selfish feeling and mechanical habit of thought which an exclusive 
study of sensible things is apt to generate, Berkeley, with earnest 
eloquence, points to the books of the ancient philosophers, and above 
all to Plato, ' whose writings are the touchstone of a hasty and shallow 
mind' (sect. 332). In the remaining sections of Siris, devoted as they 
are to meditation upon the Supreme Essence, he moves throughout in 
company with Parmenides and Plato, Plotinus and Proclus, and not 
without many allusions to the curious Hermic lore which seemed some- 
how to have a fascination for him in his old age. 

In the Ideas of Plato he thinks he discerns the beginning of a course 
of thought which reconciles philosophy with theology (sect. 335338). 
Here the phenomenal Nominalism for which the early philosophy of 
Berkeley has been celebrated is modified and supplemented by a Platonic 
or transcendental Realism, in which are dimly discerned the uncreated 
necessities, of Being, which cannot themselves be represented in the 
sensuous imagination, but by which the evolutions of the phenomenal 
world, and of the individual mind, must be regulated. The Realism of 
uncaused, because necessary, truth is dimly brought before us in this 


part of Sins. The Platonic Ideas are not like those of Locke, or 
like Berkeley's own 'ideas' or ' phenomena ' of sense, whose esse is 
perdpi ' inert, inactive objects of perception.' They are self-existent, 
necessary, uncreated principles. Nor are they the abstract general ideas 
against which he had argued in the Introduction to the Principles of 
Human Knowledge. As ' abstract/ these excluded, it was supposed, all 
attributes not contained in the meaning of the class name; yet, as 
' ideas/ i. e. singular representations, each idea had to include all the 
possible individuals in which the common attributes might be found. 
The inconsistency of this attempt to universalize individuals, to necessitate 
the contingent, was sufficiently exposed by Berkeley. But Plato's 
Universals are ' the most real beings, intellectual and unchangeable ; 
and therefore more real than the fleeting, transient objects of sense ; 
which, wanting stability, cannot be objects of science, much less of 
intellectual knowledge' (sect. 335). 'The most refined human intel- 
lect, exerted to its utmost reach, can only seize some imperfect 
glimpses of the Divine Ideas, abstracted from all things corporeal, 
sensible, and imaginable. Therefore Pythagoras and Plato treated 
them in a mysterious manner, concealing rather than exposing them to 
vulgar eyes ; so far were they from thinking that those abstract things, 
although the most real, were the fittest to influence common minds, or 
become principles of knowledge, not to say duty and virtue, to the gener- 
ality of mankind' (sect. 337). ' Nevertheless, as the mind gathers 
strength by repeated acts, we should not despond, but continue to exert 
the prime and flower of our faculties, still recovering and reaching on, 
and struggling into the upper region' (sect. 341). 

We are asked to try, in this manner, to rise even above the thought 
of a Universal Spirit, the supreme cause of life and motion, or of a Uni- 
versal Mind, enlightening and ordering all things; and to enter into the 
meaning of the ancient tenet of TO Iv or TO dyndbv the fans Deitatis the 
First Hypostasis in the Divinity by participation in which all besides 
was supposed to exist, the finite spirits of men included. For Plato 
thought that in the soul of man, ' prior and superior to intellect, there is 
somewhat of a higher nature, by virtue of which we are one, and that, 
by virtue of our one, we are most closely joined to Deity' (sect 345). 

What is TO li/, thus in a manner common to ourselves and God? 
Is it not PERSONALITY ? It seems that ' personality is the indivisible 
centre of the soul or mind, which is a monad so far forth as she is 
a Person. Therefore Person is really that which exists ; inasmuch as 
it alone participates of the divine Unity . . . Upon mature reflection the 
Person or Mind of all created beings seemeth alone indivisible, and to 


partake most of unity. Sensible things are rather considered one (by 
an act of intelligence) than truly so ; they being in a perpetual flux or 
succession, ever differing and various' (346, 347). Here we find our- 
selves returning into Berkeley's early philosophy of spiritual or personal 
phenomenalism a universe of ' ideas' or ' phenomena/ ultimately 
dependent upon Persons. 

But T& v THE ONE this abstract personality seems to exclude 
conscious intellect or mind, to which it is assumed to be prior. Is not 
this virtual Atheism at most the np^rrj V\T) of Aristotle? Berkeley 
answers (sect. 352) that, in the Ancient doctrine, this ultimate personality 
is necessarily connected with vovs or \6yo? as a Second Hypostasis. These 
two Hypostases are inseparable in the Absolute Being or Deity. * There 
never was a time supposed wherein TO ev subsisted without intellect 
(\oyos) ; the priority having been understood as a priority of order or 
conception, but not a priority of age* (sect. 352). Now, whoever re- 
cognizes that the universe is thus grounded on Eternal Mind ' cannot be 
justly deemed an Atheist.' 

Intellect (poCs or \6yos), abstracted from life, is, however, as barren as 
personality (TO ci/), abstracted from intellect. Both must participate in 
life. The supreme substance and cause must be a living or conscious 
spirit. Conscious Life or Spirit (>/;ri) is accordingly the Third 
Hypostasis in the ancient Trinity of Being. ' Certain it is/ he says, 
' that the notion of this Trinity is to be found in the writings of many 
old heathen philosophers, that is to say, a notion of Three Divine 
Hypostases. Authority, light, and life did, to the eye of reason, plainly 
appear to support, pervade, and animate the mundane system or macro- 
cosm. The same appeared in the microcosm, preserving soul and body, 
enlightening the mind, and moving the affections. And these were 
conceived to be necessary, universal principles, co-existing and co- 
operating in such sort as never to exist asunder, but on the contrary 
to constitute One Sovereign of all things. And, indeed, how could 
Power or Authority avail or subsist without Knowledge? or either 
without Life and Action?* (sect. 361.) 

Supreme Being must be Divine Thought in a Living Person. With 
this Trinity in the very essence of Being Sin's concludes. Its closing 
sentences condense the protest against selfish and degrading Materialism 
which so eloquently runs through it, and speak in favour of the deeper 
and truer life that descends in the glimpses of the Divine and Eternal 
opened to us in Theology and Philosophy, but which, after all the dis- 
cipline of reflection, our limited and sense-clogged reason can only 
imperfectly apprehend. 


Any attempt strictly to arrange in Parts the 368 sections in which 
the successive links of this Golden Chain of thought are offered would 
involve an unnatural distortion, spoiling the grace and beauty of the 
refined transitions in which the work abounds. *8ut the following 
rough classification may be convenient for the reader : 

A. Sect, i 119 may be regarded as a First Part, concerned chiefly 
with tar, tar- water, tar- vegetation, and the cures in manifold diseases 
which Berkeley attributes to his ' water of health ' not to the exclusion, 
however, of occasional anticipations even in these sections of the more 
advanced links in the chain. 

B. Sect. 1 20 230, which we may call the Second Part, place before 
us the successive physical links which bring the vulgar commodity of 
tar in sight of the supremacy of Mind a supremacy which indeed is 
intimated in anticipative jets of metaphysical speculation here and there 
in the course of these very sections. 

C. Finally, sect. 231- 368 may be read as the Third, and properly 
metaphysical, Part of Siris. Here Berkeley's metaphysical theory of the 
physical universe pervaded by spiritual power is, in the first place, 
stated (sect. 201 264) ; then (sect. 265 368) vindicated, and further 
unfolded, with help from the ancient sages. 

Thus in Sin's Physics merge in Metaphysics. And obscurity in the 
physical chain need not intercept the metaphysical light which dis- 
covers the concatenation of Reason in all things. Siris recalls in this as 
in other ways the Timceus of Plato, so often referred to in its pages. Its 
summary doctrine of a sense-universe substantiated in, and causally 
animated by Mind, of whose Ideas the laws of the sensible world are the 
expression, does not disappear in any errors of physical science that it 
happens to contain. These imply only a mistaken interpretation of the 
divine meaning, not that there is no divine meaning to be interpreted. 

The suggestive title Siris 3 (o-dpa, a band or chain) was first given to 
the treatise in the second edition, published a few weeks after the first. 

3 ' Seiris,' De Quincey says, 'ought to Second Series, vol. iii. pp. 63 65,81 84, 

have been the name.' 104 107 an essay on the Aurea Catena 

The notion of the Chain in Nature is Honieri, a rare work published in Germany 

one which strangely runs through ancient early in last century. Its author, according 

and modern science and philosophy, from to this account, ' follows the Egyptians and 

Homer and Pythagoras, through Plato and most ancient sages in regarding Nature as 

Proclus, to Bacon, Leibnitz, and Berkeley. a series of rings or revolving circles, forming 

It is prominent in the Hermic writings, a vast Chain, which links the Deity with 

and also in Paracelsus, being^a favourite His humblest creature.' It is added, how- 

with the alchemists. ever, that he deals not so much with this 

Some curious gleanings on th*s subject scale of creatures as with * the Protean Chain 

may be found in Notes and Queries, of metamorphoses and transmutations, which 

VOL. II. A a 


The first edition appeared in April, 1744 in London, 'printed for C. 
Hitch, in Pater-noster-row ; and C. Davis, against Gray's Inn, Hoi- 

The medical celebrity of the work was extraordinary in the five or 
six years after its appearance. At least three editions seem to have been 
called for in 1744. Others succeeded in 1746 and 1748. 

Several of these editions have been collated for the present work. 
I have also given the more important references, and added a few 
illustrative annotations. With a text so suggestive as Stris, the anno- 
tations might have been indefinitely extended. 

A French translation of Stris appeared at Amsterdam in 1745. It is 
entitled Recherches sur les Vertus de teau de goudron, ou Pon a joint des 
Reflexions Philosophiques sur divers autres sujets importans, Berkeley's 
First Letter to Mr. Prior is translated in this volume, which also 
includes a letter addressed to the author of the German translation of 
Siris. This French translation is referred to in the Ada Eruditorum, 
Leips. 1746, pp. 446449. 

Part of Siris was translated into German at Gottengen in 1746 the 
part which relates to the preparation and medicinal properties of tar- 
water along with several tracts on the same subject. Berkeley's Letters 
to Mr. Prior were also translated, and the volume contains an account 
of some German analyses of tar-water 4 . 

Mr. Prior, in his Treatise on the Effects of Tar Water (p. 146), men- 
tions translations of Siris into Low Dutch and Portuguese, which, as 
well as the French and German translations, must have been in circu- 

unites in one the dyads or bipolarities of cal causes, in successively ascending circles, 

life and death, generation and corruption fiom tar-water up to the Supreme Mind, of 

conception and regeneration, coagulation whose efficiency all physical causes are 

and dissolution, evaporation and conden- merely the passive instruments and inter- 

sation, volatilization and fixation,' &c. The pretable signs. According to Siris, this chain 

affinity between this Chain and speculations of physical causes,. which are in turn effects, 

about transmutation,- universal or elementary is at last physically enchained by invisible 

matter, and the notions of Paracelsus is Fire, itself connected as an effect with the 

obvious. And Berkeley repeatedly refers in Supreme Active Intelligence. So Bacon : 

Siris to the Paracelsic chemistry. When a man seeth the dependence of 

The subject is pursued in Notes and Queries, causes, and the works of Providence, then, 
Second Series, vol. xii. 1 61 163,181183, according to the allegory of the poets, he 
where the writer (p. 163) suggests that it will easily believe that the highest link of 
was with reference to the Aurea Catena Nature's Chain must needs be tied to the foot 
Homeri, 'that Bishop Berkeley wrote and of Jupiter's chair.' (Adv. of Learning jp- 12.) 
named that most strange yet most choice * I have not seen this work. I am in- 
composition, his Siris ; which, '* announced debted for an account of it to Dr. Ueberweg, 
as an Essay on Tar-water, begins with Tar the distinguished Professor of Logic and 
and ends with the Trinity, the omne scibile Metaphysics, at Konigsberg. It is curious 
forming the interspace ;" an essay which, in that the metaphysical part of Siris, con- 
spite of the Tar-water, must delight the heart nected both with ancient Greek and post- 
of every Platonist.' Kantian German speculation, seems never 

Berkeley's Chain or Scale in Siris is the to have been offered to the philosophers of 

gradation of physical effects linked to physi- Germany in their own language. 


lation in 1 746. The Dutch version was published at Amsterdam in 1745. 
Of the Portuguese I have not been able to obtain any account. 

The use of tar-water as a medicine soon became widely known in 
Europe. In fact, no work of Berkeley's produced so extensive and 
sudden a sensation as Sin's. This was not on account of its train of 
profound metaphysical thought, but because it seemed to offer a 
Catholic remedy for the physical diseases of mankind, and even 
for intellectual and moral disorder. The extraordinary and not un- 
natural popular interest is evident in many contemporary allusions. 
' It is impossible/ says Mr. Duncombe, writing to Archbishop Herring 
in June, 1744, 'it is impossible to write a letter now without tincturing 
the ink with tar-water. This is the common topic of discourse, both 
among the rich and poor, high and low; and the Bishop of Cloyne has 
made it as fashionable as going to Vauxhall or Ranelagh .... How- 
ever, the faculty in general, and the whole posse of apothecaries are 
very angry both with the author and the book, which makes many people 
suspect it is a good thing/ To which Herring, writing a few days after, 
from York, rejoins, ' Though we are so backward in some sorts of 
intelligence, we are perfectly acquainted with the virtues of tar- water; 
some have been cured as they think, and some made sick by it ; and I do 
think it is a defect in the good bishop's recommendation of it, that he 
makes it a Catholicon ; but I daresay he is confident he believes it such.' 

Stris was the occasion of a considerable body of contemporary 
literature, in the form of controversial tracts and articles. These were 
confined to its medical doctrines, and several of them were due to 
the 'anger' of 'the faculty' with an ecclesiastical intruder, whose Uni- 
versal Medicine threatened to supersede them in their own province. 

Berkeley defended and further illustrated the virtues of Tar-water 
in three Letters to his friend Thomas Prior, written in 1744, !746, 
and 1747; in a Letter to Dr. Hales in 1747; and in his Further 
Thoughts on Tar Water in 1752 all which are contained in vol. iii. pp. 
459 57> f this edition of his works. 

His old friend Thomas Prior was as unwearied as the bishop himself 
in vindicating the new medicine, and in proclaiming its virtues in innu- 
merable diseases. He communicated instances of cures to the Dublin 
Journal and the Gentleman's Magazine, soon after the first appearance of 
Sir is. In July, 1744, he published An Authentic Narrative, containing a 
record of various Cases illustrative of the Virtues of Tar Water. This 
was the germ of his larger work An Authentic Narrative of the Success 
of Tar Water in curing a great number and variety of Distempers ; with 
Remarks and Occasional Papers relative to the Subject, which appeared 


in I746 6 . Berkeley's First Letter and Second Letter to Mr. Prior are 
subjoined to this Narrative, which itself occupies 168 pages, and records 
some hundreds of cases of actual or supposed cures. It was dedicated 
to the famous Earl of Chesterfield, then Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. 

About two months after Sin's appeared, a tract was published, for 
the direction of patients in different diseases, ' by the Proprietors of 
the Tar-water Warehouse, behind the Thatched House Tavern, in 
St. James's Street/ entitled, The Medical Virtues of Tar-Water fully 
explained, by the Right Rev. Dr. George Berkeley, Lord Bishop of Cloyne 
in Ireland. To which is added, the Receipt for making it, and Instructions 
to know by the colour and taste of the Water when the Tar is good and of 
the right sort. Together with a plain Explanation of the Bishop's physical 
Terms. Dublin and London, 1744. 

The more important of the other tracts in the Tar-water Controversy 
are the following : 

1. Anti-Siris ; or English Wisdom exemplified by various examples, 
but particularly the present demand for Tar-water, on so unexceptionable 

authority as that of a R / R d itinerant Chemist, and Graduate in 

Divinity and Metaphysics. In a Letter from a Foreign Gentleman at 
London to his Friend abroad. This tract of 80 pp., which appeared in 
May, 1744, was one of the earliest attacks upon the new medicine. 

2. A Letter to the Right Rev. the Bishop of Cloyne, occasioned by His 
Lordship's Treatise on the Virtues of Tar-wafer. Impartially examining 
how far that medicine deserves the character his Lordship has given of it. 
London (June), 1744. A second edition appeared later in the same 
year. It was criticised in 

3. An Answer to a Letter to the Right Rev. the Bishop of Cloyne \ occa- 
sioned by his Treatise of Tar -water. July, 1744. 

4. Reflections concerning the Virtues of Tar -water. Wherein it is proved 
by experience that the present preparation is not founded on philosophical 
principles, and that, as now prepared, it may probably occasion more disease 
than it can possibly cure. With hints for its improvement, so as to make it 
a pleasant and efficacious medicine. By H. Jackson, chemist. London 
(June), 1744. 

5. Sir is in the Shades : A Dialogue concerning Tar- Water. July, 1744. 

6. A Cure for the Epidemical Madness of drinking Tar-water, lately 

imported from Ireland by a certain R / R d Doctor. In a Letter 

to his Lordship. By T. R., M.D. 66 pp. London (July), 1744. 

7. The Bishop of Cloyne defended, and Tar -water proved useful by 
theory and experiment. In answer to T. R., M.D. By Philanthropes. 
Ecct vox Naturce, vox Dei. London (August), 1744. 

5 The running title of Prior's work is, An Authentic Account of (be Effects of Tar Water. 


8. Remarks on the Bishop of Clqynes Sin's. By Risorius, M.A., of 
Oxford. London (November), 1744. 

9. An Account of Some Experiments and Observations on Tar -water : 
wherein is shown the quantity of Tar that is therein. Which was read 
before the Royal Society. By Stephen Hales, D.D., F.R.S. London 
(December), 1744. A second edition of this tract appeared in 1747, 
having appended to it 

10. A Letter to the Reverend Dr. Hales, concerning fhe Nature of Tar, 
and a Method of obtaining its medical virtues, free from its hurtful oils : 
wherein also the strength of each dose may be the better ascertained. By 
A. Reid, Esq. Dated, London, March 25, 1747. 

n. A Proposal for the improvement of the practice of Medicine. Illus- 
trated by an example relative to the Small Pox. The second edition, ivith 
an Appendix containing more examples. To which is added a Discourse 
on Medicinal Indications, Specifics, Panaceas, wherein are introduced Some 
Remarks on a book entitled ' Sin's, or the Properties of Tar-water.' By Mal- 
colm Flemyng, M.D. Printed by the Author at Hull, by G. Ferriby, 1748. 

12. Reflections upon Cathol icons or Universal Medicines. By Thomas 
Knight, M.D. London, 1749. 

After Berkeley's death, in 1/53, the Tar-water Controversy gradually 
subsided, but the virtue of tar, variously prepared, in different diseases, 
is still recognised by physicians". The present interest of Siris, however, 
is metaphysical rather than physical. The claim of tar-water to be a 
Universal Medicine is not now put forward, but the results of the train 
of thought to which the virtues of this supposed Catholicon gave rise 
in Berkeley's mind are even more worthy of study now than they were 
in the middle of last century, in consequence of the restoration of Greek 
philosophy, and the formations of German speculation which have 
occupied the intervening period. 

A. C. F. 

6 Dr. Cullen, in his Materla Medico (vol. IT. his Letter to Dr. Hales) who quotes Glauber 

p. 334), written in 1789, when the rage for and Boerhaave in support of the virtues of 

tar-water had ceased, says that the com- the acid. 

mendations of its patrons were often ' extra- A watery extract of tar contains ascetic 

vagant and ill founded ;* but that those who acid, carbolic acid, and creosote. Tar itself 

disparaged it, while they ' had some founda- is the volatile matter obtained by the distil- 

tion for their opinions, told many falsehoods lation of wood, and is a very complex 

about it.' He acknowledges its usefulness mixture of elements, which differ in vola- 

in many diseases. Its virtues he attributes tility ; e. g. ascetic acid, light and heavy oil 

to the vegetable acid contained in the tar, of tar, and pitch. Most of them are insoluble 

and extracted from it by water. This in water, 
opinion, he says, is confirmed by Mr. Reid (in 

['SI RIS : 





As we have opportunity, let us do good unto all men. GAX,. vi. 10. 
Hoc opus, hoc studium, parvi properemus et anipli. HOR. 


1 Added in second edition. 



TAR-WATER, how made ........ i 

How much to be taken at a time 3,116,217 

How long to be continued < no 

How made palatable 115 

A preservative and preparative against the small-pox , 2 

Useful in it 74, 83 

A cure for foulness of blood, ulceration of bowels, lungs, consump- 
tive coughs, pleurisy, peripneumony, erysipelas, asthma, indi- 
gestion, cachectic and hysteric cases, gravel, dropsy, and all 

inflammations 4-7 

Answers all the purposes of elixir proprietatis, Stoughton's drops, 

best turpentine, decoction of the woods, and mineral waters 53, 61-65 

And of the most costly balsams . . . . . . 21, 22, 62, 63 

May be given to children 67 

Of great use in the gout ........ 68, 80 

In fevers 75-77 

Cures a gangrene as well as erysipelas 82, 83 

The scurvy, and all hypochondriac maladies 86-109 

Whence this English malady proceeds 88, 89 

High food how prejudicial 66, 104 

More particularly spirituous liquors ...... 103-109 

A preservative for the teeth and gums 114 

Is particularly recommended to seafaring persons, ladies, and men 

of studious and sedentary lives 117-119 

Its specific virtues consist in its volatile salts 8,123 

Tar preserves trees from the biting of goats and other injuries . 9 
Its virtues heretofore known, but only in part . . . .9,11,111 

Tar, whence produced 10-17 

Resin, whence 18,19 

Turpentine, what 20 

Tar mixed with honey, a cure for the cough .... 21 

1 The * Contents' added in the later editions. 

362 Contents, 


Resin, an effectual cure for the bloody-flux 79 

Recommended to vintners to medicate their wines with . . 1 1 1 

Scotch firs what, and how they might be improved ... 25 

Pine and fir, different species of each 26-28 

The wonderful structure of trees ...... 29-38 

Juices produced with the least violence best 46 

Myrrh soluble by the human body would prolong life ... 49 

Tar- water, by what means and in what manner it operates . . 50-57 

Is a soap at once and a vinegar 59 

Soap, opium, and mercury, though they bid fair for Universal 

Medicines, in what respects dangerous ..... 69-71 
Aromatic flavours of vegetables depend on light as much as 

colours . .40, 162, 214, 215 

Analogy between the specific qualities of vegetable juices and 

colours 165, 181 

A fine subtle spirit, the distinguishing principle of all vegetables 121 

What the principle of vegetation, and how promoted . . . 126-128 

Theory of acids, salts, and alkalies 129-136,227 

Air the common seminary of all vivifying principles . . . 137-144 

Air, of what it consists 145-151, 195-197 

Pure aether or invisible fire, the Spirit of the Universe, which ope- 
rates in everything 152-162 

The world how understood to be an Animal . 152-156, 166, 175, 261, 262, 


Opinion of the ancients concerning it 166-179,229 

And of the Chinese, conformable to them 180-182 

What meant by the forms of the Peripatetics . . . . 167, 310 

Fire worshipped among various nations 183-185 

Opinion of the best modern chemists concerning it . . . 189,190 

Ultimately the only menstruum in nature 191 

Adds to the weight of bodies, and even gold made by the introduc- 
tion of it into quicksilver 169,192-196 

Pure elementary fire, how inherent in bodies without being subject 

to the senses 198-201 

Opinion of Hippocrates, and Dr. Willis of a vital flame . . 204, 205 

The theory of Ficinus and others concerning light . . . 206-213 
Sir Isaac Newton's hypothesis of a subtle aether examined 221-228, 237, 246 
No accounting for phenomena, either by attraction and repulsion, 
or by elastic aether, without the presence of an incorporeal 

agent 231-238, 246-249, 294-297 

The doctrine of all things unfolding themselves from seeds ill 

founded 233 

More ancient than many are aware . . . . . . 282 

Nature better explained by attraction than by Des Cartes* prin- 
ciples of size and figure 243,244 

Contents. 363 


Attraction in some degree discovered by Galilaei . . . . 245 
Phenomena are but appearances in the soul, not to be accounted 

for upon mechanical principles 251,252,310 

The ancients not ignorant of many things in physics and meta- 
physics which we think the discovery of modern times . 265-269 

Had some advantages beyond us 298 

Of absolute space, and fate 270-273 

Of the anima mundi of Plato 276-284,322 

What meant by the Egyptian Isis and Osiris . . . . 268, 299 

Plato and Aristotle's threefold distinction of objects . . . 306, 307 

Their opinion of ideas being innate, or not 308, 309 

Neither of them believed the absolute existence of corporeal 

things 311,312,316-318 

The study of the philosophy of Socrates and Pythagoras would 
have secured the minds of men from that selfishness which the 

mechanic philosophy has introduced 33 J > 33 2 

The study of Plato recommended 332, 338 

Who agrees with Scripture in many particulars .... 3 3^9 
His opinion of the Deity, and particularly of a Trinity, agreeable 

to revelation 34 I ~3 6 5 



FOR Introduction to the following piece, I assure the reader that 
nothing could, in my present situation, have induced me to be at 
the pains of writing it, but a firm belief that it would prove a valuable 
present to the public. What entertainment soever the reasoning 
or notional part may afford the Mind, I will venture to say, 
the other part seemeth so surely calculated to do good to the Body 
that both must be gainers. For, if the lute be not well tuned, 
the musician fails of his harmony. And, in our present state, the 
operations of the mind so far depend on the right tone or good 
condition of its instrument, that anything which greatly contri- 
butes to preserve or recover the health of the Body is well worth 
the attention of the Mind. These considerations have moved me 
to communicate to the public the salutary virtues of Tar-water; 
to which I thought myself indispensably obliged by the duty every 
man owes to mankind. And, as effects are linked with their 
causes, my thoughts on this low but useful theme led to farther 
inquiries, and those on to others, remote perhaps and speculative, 
but I hope not altogether useless or unentertaining. 

i. In certain parts of America' 2 , Tar-water is made by putting a 
quart of cold water to a quart of tar, and stirring them well toge- 
ther in a vessel, which is left standing till the tar sinks to the 

1 Added in second edition. a Cf. sect. 2, 17. 

366 Sir is: a Chain of 

bottom. A glass of [ 3 clear] water, being poured off for a draught, 
is replaced by the same quantity of fresh water, the vessel being 
shaken and left to stand as before. And this is repeated for every 
glass, so long as the tar continues to impregnate the water suffi- 
ciently, which [ 4 appears] by the smell and taste. But, as this 
method produceth tar-water of [ 5 a nauseous kind, and] different 
degrees of strength, I choose to make it in the following manner : 
Pour a gallon of cold water on a quart of tar, and stir, [ 5 work,] 
and mix them thoroughly [ 5 together], with a [ 5 wooden] ladle or 
flat stick, for the space of [ 6 five or six] minutes ; after which the 
vessel must stand [ 5 close covered and unmoved] [7 three days and 
nights], that the tar may have [ 3 full] time to subside ; and then 
the clear water, [^having been first carefully skimmed without 
shaking the vessel], is to be poured off, and kept [ 5 in bottles well 
stopped] for use 8 , no more being made from the same tar, which 
may still serve for common puses]. 

2. [ 10 The] cold infusion of tar hath been used in some of our 
Colonies 11 , as a preservative or preparative against the small-pox, 
which foreign practice induced me to try it in my own neighbour- 
hood, when the small-pox raged with great violence. And the 
trial fully answered my expectation : all those within my know- 
ledge who took the tar- water having either escaped that distemper, 
or had it very favourably. In one family there was a remarkable 
instance of seven children, who came all very well through the 

3 Omitted in the later editions. Letter to Dr. Hales ; and Farther Thoughts 

* ' will appear ' in early editions. on Tar-waterin vol. III. pp. 461 507 of 

5 Added in the later editions. this edition. The variations in the directions 

6 * three or four ' in the early editions. given in the successive editions of Siris, and 

7 * eight and forty hours ' in the early also of the other works, are curious. Estab- 
editions. lishments for the manufacture of tar-water, 

8 [I make this water stronger than that according to Berkeley's rules, were opened 
first prescribed in Siris, having found, on in London, Dublin, Gottengen, and elsewhere, 
more general experience, that five or six soon after the appearance of Siris. 
minutes' stirring, when the water is carefully 10 This ' in trie early editions, 
cleared and skimmed, agrees with most n He refers to our American Colonies (cf. 
stomachs.] AUTHOR. This note was added sect. 1 7), where tar-water was used medi- 
in the later editions. cinally among the Indians and others, as he 

9 ' uses ' ' purposes ' in the early edi- seems to have learned in Rhode Island. His 
tions. The manner of making tar-water, as trial of the remedy when small-pox pre- 
well as the quality of the tar, is a very im- vailed at Cloyne, and its apparent efficacy 
portant consideration with Berkeley; cf. sect. in various diseases (sect. 4 7), suggested the 
115. See also his First Letter to Thomas profound physical and metaphysical specula- 
Prior, sect. 2 ; Second Letter, sect. 25 ; tion of Siris. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 367 

small-pox, except one young child which could not be brought to 
drink tar-water as the rest had done. 

3. Several were preserved from taking the small-pox by the use 
of this liquor ; others had it in the mildest manner ; and others, 
that they might be able to take the infection, were obliged to 
intermit drinking the tar-water. I have found it may be drunk 
with great safety and success for any length of time, and this not 
only before, but also during the distemper. The general rule for 
taking it is about half a pint night and morning on an empty 
stomach, which quantity may be varied, according to the case and 
age of the patient, provided it be always taken on an empty 
stomach, and about two hours before or after a meal. [ l2 For 
children and squeamish persons it may be made weaker, or given 
little and often ; more water or less stirring makes it weaker, as 
less water or more stirring makes it stronger. It should not be 
lighter than French, nor deeper coloured than Spanish white wine. 
If a spirit be not very sensibly perceived on drinking, either the 
tar must have been bad, or already used, or the tar-water carelessly 
made or kept. Particular experience will best shew how much 
and how strong the stomach can bear, and what are the properest 
times for taking it. I apprehend no danger from excess in the use 
of this medicine.] 

4. It seemed probable that a medicine of such efficacy in a dis- 
temper attended with so many purulent ulcers might be also useful 
in other foulnesses of the blood ; accordingly, I tried it on several 
persons infected with cutaneous eruptions and ulcers, who were 
soon relieved, and soon after cured. Encouraged by these suc- 
cesses, I ventured to advise it in the foulest distempers, wherein 
it proved much more successful than salivations and wood drinks 
had done. 

5. Having tried it in a great variety of cases, I found it suc- 
ceeded beyond my hopes : in a tedious and painful ulceration of 
the bowels ; in a consumptive cough, and (as appeared by expecto- 
rated pus) an ulcer in the lungs ; in a pleurisy and peripneumony. 
And when a person who for some years had been subject to erysi- 
pelatous fevers perceived the usual forerunning symptoms to come 
on, I advised her to drink tar-water, which prevented the ery- 

12 Added in the later editions the last two sentences in the last. Cf. sect. 115. 

368 Siris : a Chain of 

6. I never knew anything so good for the stomach 13 as tar- water: 
it cures indigestion and gives a good appetite. It is an excellent 
medicine in an asthma. It imparts a kindly warmth and quick 
circulation to the juices without heating, and is therefore useful, 
not only as a pectoral and balsamic, but also as a powerful and 
safe deobstruent in cachetic and hysteric cases. As it is both 
healing and diuretic, it is very good for the gravel. I believe it to 
be of great use in dropsy, having known it cure a very bad anar- 
saca in a person whose thirst, though very extraordinary, was in a 
short time removed by the drinking of tar-water. 

7. The usefulness of this medicine in inflammatory cases is 
evident, from what has been already observed. (Sect. 5.) And yet 
some perhaps may suspect that, as the tar itself ib sulphureous, 
tar- water must be of a hot and inflaming 14 nature. But it is to be 
noted that all balsams contain an acid spirit, which is in truth a 
volatile salt. Water is a menstruum that dissolves all sorts of 
salts, and draws them from their subjects. Tar, therefore, being a 
balsam, its salutary acid is extracted by water j which yet is in- 
capable of dissolving its gross resinous parts, whose proper men- 
struum is spirit of wine. Therefore tar-water, not being impreg- 
nated with resin, may be safely used in inflammatory cases : and in 
fact it hath been found an admirable febrifuge, at once the safest 
cooler and cordial. 

8. The volatile salts 15 separated by infusion from tar, may be 
supposed to contain its specific virtues. Mr. Boyle and other later 
chemists are agreed that fixed salts are much the same in all 
bodies. But it is well known that volatile salts do greatly differ, 
and the easier they are separated from the subject, the more do 

13 This is repeated by Berkeley in various was afterwards put in fiery language by 
places. Cf. sect. 21, 68, 80, 87, &c. The Dr. Knight, in his Reflections upon Catholi- 
tonic properties of tar-water were generally cons. Mr. Prior, in his Authentic Narrative 
appreciated as by Dr. Cullen, for instance, (pp. 159 60), quotes a letter by 'Dr. De 
in his Materia Medica, vol. II. p. 354. Linden, a German physician now in London,' 

14 The objection to tar-water, as apt to (see Further Thoughts on Tar-water, vol.111, 
aggravate fevers and inflammatory diseases, pp. 506, 507), in refutation of the error by 
is urged in several of the letters and pam- him erroneously attributed to Siris itself 
phlets written against the suggested Panacea. that tar-water is heating, and tends to pro- 
Berkeley here replies by anticipation. Cf. duce inflammation in the blood. 

sect. 74 79. The objection is often referred 15 Cf. sect. 123. 

to in Berkeley's writings on tar-water, and 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 369 

they possess of its specific qualities. Now, the most easy separa- 
tion is by the infusion of tar in cold water, which to smell and 
taste shewing itself well impregnated may be presumed to extract 
and retain the most pure volatile and active particles of that 
vegetable balsam. 

9. Tar was by the ancients esteemed good against poisons, ulcers, 
the bites of venomous creatures; also for phthisical, scrofulous, 
paralytic, and asthmatic persons 16 . But the method of rendering 
it an inoffensive medicine and agreeable to the stomach by ex- 
tracting its virtues in cold water was unknown to them. The 
leaves and tender tops of pine and fir are in our times used for 
diet drinks, and allowed to be antiscorbutic and diuretic. But the 
most elaborate juice, salt, and spirit of [*' these] evergreens, are to 
be found in tar ; whose virtues extend not to animals alone, but 
also to vegetables. Mr. Evelyn, in his treatise on Forest Trees 18 , 
observes with wonder, that stems of trees, smeared over with tar, 
are preserved thereby from being hurt by the invenomed teeth of 
goats, and other injuries, while every other thing of an unctuous 
nature is highly prejudicial to them. 

10. I9 lt seems that tar and turpentine may be had, more or less, 
from all sorts of pines ana firs whatsoever ; and that the native 
spirits and essential salts of those vegetables are the same in 
turpentine and common tar. In effect, this vulgar tar, which 
cheapness and plenty may have rendered contemptible, appears 
to be an excellent balsam, containing the virtues of most other 
balsams; which it easily imparts to water, and by that means 
readily and inoffensively insinuates them into the habit of the 

1 1 . The resinous exudations of pines and firs are an important 
branch of the materia medica, and not only useful in the prescrip- 
tions of physicians, but have been also thought otherwise con- 

16 See Pliny, Hist. Nat. lib. XXIV. c. 22-26. royalist of his time, eminent in natural sci- 
It seems that the first use of tar was medicinal. ence, and also in philanthropic service. His 

17 ' those' in the early editions. interesting Memoirs, published in 1818, are 

18 Sylva : or a Discourse on Forest well known. 

Trees, and the Propagation of Timber in 19 The sources of the resins, vegetable 

His Majesty's Dominions (1664). John tar, pitch, and turpentine, as well as various 

Evelyn, (1620 1 706) ' Sylva Evelyn ' modes of procuring them, in ancient and mo- 

the characteristic English gentleman and dern times, are mentioned in sect. 10 28. 

VOL. II. B b 

370 Siris : a Chain of 

ducive to health. Pliny ' i0 tells us that wines in the time of the 
old Romans were medicated with pitch and resin ; and Jonstonus 
in his Dendrographia^ 1 observes, that it is wholesome to walk in 
groves of pine-trees, which impregnate the air with balsamic 
particles. That all turpentines and resins are good for the lungs, 
against gravel also and obstructions, is no secret. And that the 
medicinal properties of those drugs are found in tar-water, without 
heating the blood, or disordering the stomach, is confirmed by ex- 
perience j and particularly, that phthisical and asthmatic persons 
receive speedy and great relief from the use of it. 

12. Balsams, as all unctuous and oily medicines, create a 
nauseating in the stomach. They cannot therefore be taken in 
substance so much or so long as to produce all those salutary 
effects, which, if thoroughly mixed with the blood and juices, they 
would be capable of producing. It must therefore be a thing of 
great benefit to be able to introduce any requisite quantity of 
their volatile parts into the finest ducts and capillaries, so as 
not to offend the stomach, but, on the contrary, to comfort and 
strengthen it in a great degree. 

13. According to Pliny '^, liquid pitch (as he calls it) or tar 
was obtained by setting fire to billets ' of old fat pines or firs. 
The first running was tar, the latter or thicker running was pitch. 
Theophrastus 23 is more particular: he tells us the Macedonians 
made huge heaps of the cloven trunks of those trees, wherein the 
billets were placed erect beside each other: that such heaps or 
piles of wood were sometimes a hundred and eighty cubits round, 
and sixty or even a hundred high : and that, having covered 
them with sods of earth to prevent the flame from bursting 
forth (in which case the tar was lost), they set on fire those 
huge heaps of pine or fir, letting the tar and pitch run out in 
a channel. 

14. Pliny 24 saith, it was customary for the ancients to hold 

20 Hist. Nat. lib. XIV. c. 25. to in this and in the following sections, is 

21 Dendrograpbias, she Historic Na- the oldest extant treatise in Botany and 
turalis de arboribus et fruticibus, tarn nostri Vegetable Physiology. Pliny, so often quoted 
quam peregrini orbis (Francf., 1662). Joan- in this part of Siris, who describes more 
nes Jonstonus, M. D. (1603 1675), a than a thousand species of plants, is the 
Polish naturalist, author of several works next great authority in chronological order, 
in botany and zoology. in this department. Thereafter little pro- 

22 Hist. Nat. lib. XVI. c. 22. gress was made until the study revived in 

23 Hist. Plant, lib. IX. c. 3. This work of modern times. 
Theophrastus, the pupil of Aristotle, referred a * Hist. Nat. lib. XV. c. 7. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 371 

fleeces of wool over the steam of boiling tar, and squeeze the 
moisture from them, which watery substance was called pissinum. 
Ray 25 will have this to be the same with the pissel*um of the 
ancients; but Hardouin, in his notes on Pliny, thinks the pissel<eum 
to have been produced from the cones of cedars. What use they 
made of these liquors anciently I know not ; but it may be pre- 
sumed they were used in medicine, though at present, for aught 
I can find, they are not used at all. 

1 5. From the manner of procuring tar (sect. ] 3) it plainly ap- 
pears to be a natural production, lodged in the vessels of the tree, 
whence it is only freed and let loose (not made) by burning. If 
we may believe Pliny 26 , the first running or tar was called cedrtum^ 
and was of such efficacy to preserve from putrefaction that in 
Egypt they embalmed dead bodies with it. And to this he ascribes 
their mummies continuing uncorrupted for so many ages. 

1 6. Some modern writers inform us that tar flows from the trunks 
of pines and firs, when they are very old, through incisions made 
in the bark near the root; that pitch is tar inspissated 2 7; and both 
are the oil of the tree grown thick and ripened with age and sun. 
The trees, like old men, being unable to perspire, and their 
secretory ducts obstructed, they are, as one may say, choked and 
stuffed with their own juice. 

17. The method used by our Colonies in America for making 
tar and pitch is in effect the same with that of the ancient 
Macedonians ; as appears from the account given in the Philoso- 
phical Transactions^. And the relation of Leo Afrkanus^ Q , who 
describes, as an eye-witness, the making of tar on Mount Atlas, 
agrees in substance with the methods used by the Macedonians 
of old, and the people of New England at this day. 

1 8. Jonstonus, in his Dendrographia^ is of opinion, that pitch 
was anciently made of cedar, as well as of the pine and fir 

25 Th^xfer enceshere ' andinsect - 2 ' /2 5' 28 In the Pbilos - Trans., No. 243, we 
are to iheJfistoria Plantarum (1694) of have an account of the way of making tar 
John Ray (1628 1705), the great English at Marseilles. See also No. 228. 
naturalist of the I 7th century, well known as> In the Africa* Descriptio of this learned 
also as author of the Wisdom of God in Moor. Leo (cir. 14701530) made ex- 
tbe Works of the Creation. See his Hist. tensive journeys in the north of Africa 
Plant, lib. XXV. about the beginning of the i6th century. 

26 Hist. Nat. lib. XVI. c. 21. His book has been translated from the 

27 ' inspissated ' ' thickened ' a term original Arabic into various languages. An 
used by Evelyn, also by Bacon and others. English version appeared in 1600. 

B b i 

37 2 Siris : a Chain of 

grown old and oily. It should seem indeed that one and the same 
word was used by the ancients in a large sense, so as to com- 
prehend the juices issuing from all those trees. Tar and all sorts 
of exudations from evergreens are, in a general acceptation, in- 
cluded under the name resin. Hard coarse resin or dry pitch 
is made from tar, by letting it blaze till the moisture is spent. 
Liquid resin is properly an oily viscid juice oozing from the bark 
of evergreen trees, either spontaneously or by incision. It is 
thought to be the oil of the bark inspissated by the sun. As it 
issues from the tree it is liquid, but becomes dry and hard, being 
condensed by the sun or by fire. 

19. According to Theophrastus' 30 , resin was obtained by 
stripping off the bark from pines, and by incisions made in the 
silver fir and the pitch pine. The inhabitants of Mount Ida, he 
tells us, stripped the trunk of the pine on the sunny side two or 
three cubits from the ground. He observes that a good pine might 
be made to yield resin every year an indifferent every other year ; 
and the weaker trees once in three years ; and that three runnings 
were as much as a tree could bear. It is remarked by the same 
author that a pine doth not at once produce fruit and resin, but 
the former only in its youth, the latter in its old age. 

20. Turpentine is a fine resin. Four kinds of this are in use. 
The turpentine of Chios or Cyprus, which flows from the tur- 
pentine tree : the Venice turpentine, which is got by piercing the 
larch tree : the Strasburgh turpentine, which Mr. Ray informs us 
is procured from the knots of the silver fir ; it is fragrant and 
grows yellow with age : the fourth kind is common turpentine, 
neither transparent nor so liquid as the former ; and this Mr. Ray 
taketh to flow from the mountain pine. All these turpentines 
are useful in the same intentions. Theophrastus 31 saith, the best 
resin or turpentine is got from the tereblntkus growing in Syria 
and some of the Greek islands. The next best from the silver 
fir and pitch pine. 

21. Turpentine is on all hands allowed to have great medicinal 
virtues. Tar and its infusion contain those virtues. Tar-water 

80 Hist. Plant, lib. IX. c. 2. A similar 3t See Hist. Plant, lib. IX. c. 2. The pas- 

account of the way of extracting resin from sages of Theophrastus referred to, in sect. 25, 
pine is given by Pliny. 28, 39, are in this and the next chapter. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 373 

is extremely pectoral and restorative ; and, if I may judge from 
what experience I have had, it possesseth the most valuable 
qualities ascribed to the several balsams of Peru, of Tolu, of 
Capivi, and even to the balm of Gilead such is its virtue in 
asthmas and pleurisies, in obstructions and ulcerous erosions of 
the inward parts. Tar in substance mixed with honey I have 
found an excellent medicine for coughs. Balsams, as hath been 
already observed, are apt to offend the stomach, but tar-water may 
be taken without offending the stomach. For the strengthening 
whereof it is the best medicine I have ever tried. 

22. The folly of man rateth things by their scarceness, but 
Providence hath made the most useful things most common. 
Among those liquid oily extracts from trees and shrubs which 
are termed balsams, and valued for medicinal virtues, tar may 
hold its place as a most valuable balsam. Its fragrancy sheweth 
that it is possessed of active qualities, and its oiliness that it is 
fitted to retain them. This excellent balsam may be purchased 
for a penny a pound, whereas the balsam of Judea, when most 
plenty, was sold on the very spot that produced it, for double its 
weight in silver, if we may credit Pliny 32 ; who also informs us, 
that the best balsam of Judea flowed only from the bark, and that 
it was adulterated with resin and oil of turpentine. Now, com- 
paring the virtues I have experienced in tar with those I find 
ascribed to the precious balm of Judea, of Gilead, or of Mecha, 
(as it is diversly called), I am of opinion that the latter is not a 
medicine of more value or efficacy than the former. 

23. Pliny 33 supposed amber to be a resin, and to distil from some 
species of pine which he gathered from its smell. Nevertheless, 
its being dug out of the earth shews it to be a fossil, though of 
a very different kind from other fossils. But thus much is certain, 
that the medicinal virtues of amber are to be found in the bal- 
samic juices of pines and firs. Particularly the virtues of the 
most valuable preparation, I mean salt of amber, are in a great 
degree answered by tar-water, as a detergent, diaphoretic, and 

24. There is, as hath been already observed, more or less oil 
and balsam in all evergreen trees, which retains the acid spirit, 

82 Hist. Nat. lib. XII. c. 54. 33 Ibid. lib. XXXVII. c. 11. 

374 Siris: a Chain of 

that principle of life and verdure ; the not retaining whereof in 
sufficient quantity causeth other plants to droop and wither. Of 
these evergreen trees productive of resin, pitch and tar, Pliny 34 
enumerates six kinds in Europe; Jonstonus reckons up thrice that 
number of the pine and fir family. And, indeed, their number, 
their variety, and their likeness, make it difficult to be exact. 

25. It is remarked, both by Theophrastus and Jonstonus, that 
trees growing in low and shady places do not yield so good tar 35 
as those which grow in higher and more exposed situations. And 
Theophrastus farther observes, that the inhabitants of Mount Ida 
in Asia, who distinguish the Idean pine from the maritime, affirm, 
that the tar flowing from the former is in greater plenty, as well 
as more fragrant than the other. Hence, it should seem the pines 
or firs in the mountains of Scotland might be employed that way, 
and rendered valuable ; even where the timber, by its remoteness 
from water carriage, is of small value. What we call the Scotch 
fir is falsely so called, being in truth a wild forest pine, and (as 
Mr. Ray informs us) agreeing much with the description of a pine 
growing on Mount Olympus in Phrygia, probably the only place 
where it is found out of these islands ; in which of late years it 
is so much planted and cultivated with so little advantage, while 
the cedar of Lebanon might perhaps be raised, with little more 
trouble, and much more profit and ornament. 

26. The pines, which differ from the firs in the length and 
disposition of their leaves and hardness of the wood, do not, 
in Pliny's 36 account, yield so much resin as the fir-trees. Several 
species of both are accurately described and delineated by the 
naturalists. But they all agree so far as to seem related. Theo- 
phrastus gives the preference to that resin which is got from the 
silver fir and pitch-tree (eAdr?; and wfrvs) before that yielded by 
the pine, which yet he saith is in greater plenty. Pliny ;J ", on the 

3 * Hist. Nat. lib. XVI. c. 16 19. water when made should be as transparent 

35 Cf. Sect. 28. Berkeley lays great stress, as sherry, and the smell quite even, and 

for medicinal purposes, on the quality of the no way offensive to any but those who have 

tar. ' As there is as great difference in tar an antipathy to the smell of tar in general, 

as in any commodity whatsoever,' says the Whereas the other has none of the acid, 

author of The Medical Virtues of Tar Water whicb is ibe principal advantageous pro- 

.(1744), 'the persons who intend to make perty? North American, but especially 

it are cautioned as to the following par- Norwegian, tar, is that recommended by 

ticulars, lest Plantation tar, or tar used be- Berkeley. The tar of the Thuringian forest 

fore, should be imposed upon them. The was also in estimation, 
true properties of the right tar-water are 3J Hist. Nat. lib. XVI. c. 16 1 8. See also 

that there should be an acid in the taste, the Hardouin's notes on Pliny. 37 Ibid. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 375 

contrary, affirms that the pine produceth the smallest quantity. 
It should seem therefore that the interpreter of Theophrastus 
might have been mistaken, in rendering TTCVKTI by pinus -, as well 
as Jonstonus, who likewise takes the pine for the irevKrj of Theo- 
phrastus. Hardouin will have the pinus of Pliny to have been 
by others called Tre^r/, but by Theophrastus vims. Ray thinks 
the common fir, or picea of the Latins, to be the male fir of 
Theophrastus. This was probably the spruce fir ; for the ptcea, 
according to Pliny : ' 8 , yields much resin, loves a cold and moun- 
tainous situation, and is distinguished, tonsili facilitate, by its fitness 
to be shorn, which agrees with the spruce-fir, whereof I have seen 
close-shorn hedges. 

27. There seems to have been some confusion in the naming 
of these trees, as well among the ancients as the moderns. The 
ancient Greek and Latin names are by later authors applied very 
differently. Pliny 39 himself acknowledged it is not easy even for 
the skilful to distinguish the trees by their leaves, and know 
their sexes and kinds; and that difficulty is since much increased, 
by the discovery of many new species of that evergreen tribe, 
growing in various parts of the globe. But descriptions are not 
so easily misapplied as names. Theophrastus tells that mrvs 
differeth from Treu/cr; among other things, in that it is neither so 
tall nor so straight, nor hath so large a leaf. The fir he 
distinguished into male and female : the latter is softer timber 
than the male; it is also a taller and fairer tree, and this is 
probably the silver fir. 

28. To say no more on this obscure business, which I leave 
to the critics, I shall observe that according to Theophrastus not 
only the turpentine-trees, the pines, and the firs yield resin or 
tar, but also the cedars and palm-trees ; and the words fix and 
resina are taken by Pliny in so large a sense as to include the 
weepings of the lentiscus and cypress, and the balms of Arabia 
and Judea ; all which perhaps are near of kin, and in their most 
useful qualities concur with common tar, especially the Norwe- 
gian, which is the most liquid, and best for medicinal uses of any 
that I have experienced. Those trees that grow on mountains, 
exposed to the sun or the north wind lo , are reckoned by Theo- 

38 Hist. Nat. lib. XVI. c. 1 8. See Hardouin's notes on Pliny. 
39 Ibid. c. 19. * Cf. sect. 25. 

376 Siris : a Chain of 

phrastus to produce the best and purest tar ; and the Idaean pines 
were distinguished from those growing on the plain, as yielding 
a thinner, sweeter, and better scented tar, all which differences 
I think I have observed, between the tar that comes from Norway, 
and that which comes from low and swampy countries. 

29. 41 Agreeable to the old observation of the Peripatetics, 
that heat gathereth homogeneous things, and disperseth such as 
are heterogeneous, we find Chemistry is fitted for the analysis 
of bodies. But the chemistry of nature is much more perfect 
than that of human art, inasmuch as it joineth to the power of 
heat that of the most exquisite mechanism. Those who have 
examined the structure of trees and plants by microscopes have 
discovered an admirable variety of fine capillary tubes and 
vessels, fitted for several purposes, as the imbibing or attracting 
of proper nourishment, the distributing thereof through all parts 
of the vegetable, the discharge of superfluities, the secretion of 
particular juices. They are found to have ducts answering to 
the tracheae in animals, for the conveying of air ; they have others 
answering to lacteals, arteries, and veins. They feed, digest, 
respire, perspire, and generate their kind, and are provided with 
organs nicely fitted for all those uses. 

30. The sap vessels are observed to be fine tubes running up 
through the trunk from the root. Secretory vessels are found in 
the bark, buds, leaves, and flowers. Exhaling vessels, for carrying 
off excrementitious parts, are discovered throughout the whole 
surface of the vegetable. And (though this point be not so well 
agreed) Dr. Grew, in his Anatomy of Plants* 1 , thinks there appears 
a circulation of the sap, moving downwards in the root, and 
feeding the trunk upwards. 

31. Some difference indeed there is between learned men, 

41 In sect. 29 38 Berkeley speculates * 2 The Anatomy of Plants : ivith an Idea 

about the anatomy and physiology of vege- of the philosophical History of Plants, by 

tables, and their analogy to animal organiza- Nehemiah Grew, M.D., London 1682. See 

tion. They breathe, feed, digest, perspire, bk. I. ch. 2. 30. Dr. Grew (1628 1712), 

and generate ; and pines and firs especially, was secretary to the Royal Society, and the 

under the action of the sun, secrete a balsam, most eminent English botanist of his day, 

which, perspiring through the bark, hardens author of works on the anatomy and physi- 

into resin. It is this secretion, so abundant ology of plants, which laid the foundation 

and tenacious of the acid spirit or vegetable of Vegetable Physiology. The microscope 

soul in pines and firs, which is, according to was then initiating important discoveries. 

Berkeley, through a natural chemistry, trans- Grew, Ray, and Malpighi, are the three 

formed into his catholic medicine. great modern botanists before Linnaeus. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 377 

concerning the proper use of certain parts of vegetables. But, 
whether the discoverers have rightly guessed at all their uses 
or no, thus much is certain that there are innumerable fine and 
curious parts in a vegetable body, and a wonderful similitude or 
analogy between the mechanism of plants and animals. And 
perhaps some will think it not unreasonable to suppose the 
mechanism of plants more curious than even that of animals, if 
we consider not only the several juices secreted by different 
parts of the same plant, but also the endless variety of juices 
drawn and formed out of the same soil, by various species of 
vegetables; which must therefore differ in an endless variety, 
as to the texture of their absorbent vessels and secretory ducts. 

32. A body, therefore, either animal or vegetable, may be 
considered as an organized system of tubes and vessels, con- 
taining several sorts of fluids. And as fluids are moved through 
the vessels of animal bodies by the systole and diastole of the 
heart, the alternate expansion and condensation of the air, and 
the oscillations in the membranes and tunics of the vessels 
even so, by means of air expanded and contracted in the tracheae 
or vessels made up of elastic fibres, the sap is propelled through 
the arterial tubes of a plant, and the vegetable juices, as they 
are rarefied by heat or condensed by cold, will either ascend 
and evaporate into air, or descend in the form of a gross 

33. Juices, therefore, first purified by straining through the 
fine pores of the root, are afterwards exalted by the action of 
the air and the vessels of the plant ; but, above all, by the action 
of the sun's light; which, at the same time that it heats, doth 
wonderfully rarefy and raise the sap, till it perspires and forms 
an atmosphere, like the effluvia of animal bodies. And, though 
the leaves are supposed to perform principally the office of lungs, 
breathing out excrementitious vapours, and drawing in alimentary; 
yet it seems probable, that the reciprocal actions of repulsion and 
attraction are performed all over the surface of vegetables as well 
as animals. In which reciprocation Hippocrates 43 supposeth the 
manner of nature's acting for the nourishment and health of 
animal bodies chiefly to consist. And, indeed, what share of a 

43 Opera, torn. I. pp. 629, &c. (ed. Lips. 1825) in the treatise De Diata. 

378 Siris: a Chain of 

plant's nourishment is drawn, through the leaves and bark, from 
that ambient heterogeneous fluid called air, is not easy to say. 
It seems very considerable, and altogether necessary, as well to 
vegetable as animal life. 

34. It is an opinion received by many, that the sap circulates 
in plants as the blood in animals; that it ascends through 
capillary arteries in the trunk, into which are inosculated other 
vessels of the bark answering to veins, which bring back to the 
root the remainder of the sap, over and above what had been 
deposited during its ascent by the arterial vessels, and secreted 
for the several uses of the vegetable throughout all its parts, 
stem, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit. Others deny this cir- 
culation, and affirm that the sap doth not return through the 
bark vessels. It is nevertheless agreed by all that there are 
ascending and descending juices ; while some will have the ascent 
and descent to be a circulation of the same juices through different 
vessels; others will have the ascending juice to be one sort 
attracted by the root, and the descending another imbibed by the 
leaves, or extremities of the branches ; lastly, others think that 
the same juice, as it is rarefied or condensed by heat or cold, 
rises and subsides in the same tube. I shall not take upon me 
to decide this controversy^ Only I cannot help observing that 
the vulgar argument from analogy between plants and animals 
loses much of its force, if it be considered that the supposed cir- 
culating of the sap, from the root or lacteals through the arteries, 
and thence returning, by inosculations, through the veins or bark 
vessels to the root or lacteals again, is in no sort conformable or 
analogous to the circulation of the blood. 

35. It is sufficient to observe, what all must acknowledge, that 
a plant or tree is a very nice and complicated machine (sect. 
3j 3 r )j by the several parts and motions whereof, the crude 
juices, admitted through the absorbent vessels, whether of the 
root, trunk, or branches, are variously mixed, separated, altered, 
digested, and exalted, in a very wonderful manner. The juice, 
as it passeth in and out, up and down, through tubes of different 
textures, shapes, and sizes, and is affected by the alternate com- 
pression and expansion of elastic vessels, by the vicissitudes of 
seasons, the changes of weather, and the various action of the 
solar light, grows still more and more elaborate. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 379 

36. There is therefore no chemistry like that of nature, which 
addeth to the force of fire the most delicate, various, and arti- 
ficial percolation (sect. 29). The incessant action of the sun 
upon the elements of air, earth, and water, and on all sorts of 
mixed bodies, animal, vegetable, and fossil, is supposed to perform 
all sorts of chemical operations. Whence it should follow, that 
the air contains all sorts of chemic productions, the vapours, 
fumes, oils, salts, and spirits of all the bodies we know: from 
which general aggregate or mass, those that are proper being 
drawn in, through the fine vessels of the leaves, branches, and 
stem of the tree, undergo, in its various organs, new alterations, 
secretions, and digestions, till such time as they assume the most 
elaborate form. 

37. Nor is it to be wondered that the peculiar texture of each 
plant or tree, co-operating with the solar fire u and pre-existing 
juices, should so alter the fine nourishment drawn from earth 
and air (sect. 33), as to produce various specific qualities of great 
efficacy in medicine; especially if it be considered that in the 
opinion of learned men, there is an influence on plants derived 
from the sun, besides its mere heat. Certainly, Dr. Grew, that 
curious anatomist of plants, holds the solar influence 44 to differ 
from that of a mere culinary fire no otherwise than by being only 
a more temperate and equal heat. 

38. The alimentary juice taken into the lacteals, [ 43 if I may so 
say, of vegetables,] consists of oily, aqueous, and saline particles, 
which being dissolved, volatilized, and diversely agitated, part 
thereof is spent and exhaled into the air; and that part which 
remains is, by the economy of the plant, and action of the sun, 
strained, purified, concocted, and ripened, into an inspissated 
oil or balsam, and deposited in certain cells placed chiefly in the 
bark, which is thought to answer the pannlculus adiposus in animals, 
defending trees from the weather, and, when in sufficient quantity, 
rendering them evergreen. This balsam, weeping or sweating 
through the bark, hardens into resin; and this most copiously 
in the several species of pines and firs, whose oil being in 

44 Cf. Berkeley's First Letter to Thomas the visible world.' See Grew's Idea of a 

Prior i on the Virtues of Tar-water , sect. Philosophical History of Plants, 61. 
1 6, 17, where he professes 'the ancient 45 'whether of animals or vegetables' 

opinion that Fire is the animal spirit of in first edition. 

380 Siris : a Chain of 

greater quantity, and more tenacious of the acid spirit, or vege- 
table soul (as perhaps it may not improperly be called), abides 
the action of the sun, and, attracting the sunbeams, is thereby 
exalted and enriched, so as to become a most noble medicine : 
such is the last product of a tree, perfectly maturated by time 
and sun. 

39. It is remarked by Theophrastus that all plants and trees 
while they put forth have most humour, but when they have ceased 
to germinate and bear, then the humour is strongest, and most 
sheweth the nature of the plant, and that, therefore, trees yielding 
resin should be cut after germination. It seems also very reason- 
able to suppose the juice of old trees, whose organs bring no new 
sap, should be better ripened than that of others. 

40. 46 The aromatic flavours of vegetables seem to depend upon 
the sun's light as much as colours. As in the production of the 
latter, the reflecting powers of the object, so in that of the former, 
the attractive and organical powers of the plant co-operate with 
the sun (sect. 36, 37). And as from Sir Isaac Newton's experi- 
ments it appears that all colours are virtually in the white light of 
the sun, and shew themselves when the rays are separated by the 
attracting and repelling powers of objects even so the specific 
qualities of the elaborate juices of plants seem to be virtually or 
eminently contained in the solar light, and are actually exhibited 
upon the separation of the rays, by the peculiar powers of the 
capillary organs in vegetables, attracting and imbibing certain 
rays, which produce certain flavours and qualities, in like manner 
as certain rays, being reflected, produce certain colours. 

41. It hath been observed by some curious anatomists that the 
secretory vessels in the glands of animal bodies are lined with a 
fine down, which in different glands is of different colours. And 
it is thought that each particular down, being originally imbued 
with its own proper juice, attracts none but that sort ; by which 
means so many various juices are secreted in different parts of the 
body. And perhaps there may be something analogous to this in 
the fine absorbent vessels of plants, which may co-operate towards 

46 Sect. 4046 expressly refer to the of vegetable life, and is to the macro- 

already noted qualities of the juice of plants, cosm what the animal spirit is to the micro- 

especially pines and firs. The solar light cosm. The sanitary properties of light are 

or emanation in this, according to the ' fire now universally recognised, alike in the case 

philosophy' of Siris, constitutes the soul of animals and vegetables. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 381 

producing that endless variety of juices, elaborated in plants from 
the same earth and air. 

42. The balsam or essential oil of vegetables contains a spirit, ! 
wherein consist the specific qualities, the smell and taste, of the 
plant. Boerhaave 4 ? holds the native presiding spirit to be neither 
oil, salt, earth, or water- but somewhat too fine and subtle to be 
caught alone and rendered visible to the eye. This when suffered 
to fly off, for instance, from the oil of rosemary, leaves it destitute 
of all flavour. This spark of life, this spirit or soul, if we may so 
say, of the vegetable departs without any sensible diminution of 
the oil or water wherein it was lodged. 

43. It should seem that the forms, souls, or principles of vege- 
table life subsist in the light or solar emanation (sect. 40) j which 
in respect of the macrocosm is what the animal spirit is to the 
microcosm the interior tegument, the subtle instrument and 
vehicle of power. No wonder, then, that the ens prlmum or 
scintilla spirituosa, as it is called, of plants should be a thing so fine 
and fugacious as to escape our nicest search. It is evident that 
nature at the sun's approach vegetates, and languishes at his 
recess ; this terrestrial globe seeming only a matrix disposed 
and prepared to receive life from his light ; whence Homer in 
his Hymns styleth earth the wife of heaven, aAox' ovpavov 

44. The luminous spirit which is the form or life of a plant, 
from whence its differences and properties flow, is somewhat 
extremely volatile. It is not the oil, but a thing more subtle, 
whereof oil is the vehicle, which retains it from flying off, and is 
lodged in several parts of the plant, particularly in the cells of the 
bark and in the seeds. This oil, purified and exalted by the 
organical powers of the plant, and agitated by warmth, becomes a 
proper receptacle of the spirit : part of which spirit exhales through 
the leaves and flowers, and part is arrested by this unctuous 
humour that detains it in the plant. It is to be noted this 
essential oil, animated, as one may say, with the flavour of the 
plant, is very different from any spirit that can be procured from 
the same plant by fermentation. 

45. Light impregnates air (sect. 37, 43), air impregnates vapour; 

47 Boerhaave (1668 1738) the most See his Elementa Cbemice, torn. II. pp. 
illustrious physician of the i8th century. 149 50. 

382 Siris : a Chain of 

and this becomes a watery juice by distillation, having risen first 
in the cold still with a kindly gentle heat. This fragrant vege- 
table water is possessed of the specific odour and taste of the plant. 
It is remarked that distilled oils added to water for counterfeiting 
the vegetable water can never equal it, artificial chemistry falling 
short of the natural. 

46. The less violence is used to nature the better its produce. 
The juice of olives or grapes issuing by the lightest pressure is 
best. Resins that drop from the branches spontaneously, or ooze 
upon the slightest incision, are the finest and most fragrant. And 
infusions are observed to act more strongly than decoctions of 
plants ; the more subtle and volatile salts and spirits, which might 
be lost or corrupted by the latter, being obtained in their natural 
state by the former. It is also observed that the finest, purest, and 
most volatile part is that which first ascends in distillation. And, 
indeed, it should seem the lightest and most active particles 
required least force to disengage them from the subject. 

47. The salts, therefore, and more active spirits of the tar are 
got by infusion in cold water ; but the resinous part is not to be 
dissolved thereby (sect. 7). Hence the prejudice which some 
perhaps may entertain against tar-water as a medicine, the use 
whereof might inflame the blood by its sulphur and resin, appears 
to be not well grounded ; it being indeed impregnated with a fine 
acid spirit, balsamic, cooling, diuretic, and possessed of* many 
other virtues (sect. 42, 44). Spirits are supposed to consist of 
salts and phlegm, probably, too, somewhat of a fine oily nature, 
differing from oil in that it mixeth with water, and agreeing with 
oil in that it runneth in rivulets by distillation. Thus much is 
allowed, that the water, earth, and fixed salt are the same in all 
plants; that, therefore, which differenceth a plant, or makes it 
what it is the native spark or form, in the language of the 
chemists or schools is none of those things, nor yet the finest oil, 
which seemeth only its receptacle or vehicle. It is observed by 
chemists that all sorts of balsamic wood afford an acid spirit, 
which is the volatile oily salt of the vegetable ; herein are chiefly 
contained their medicinal virtues ; and, by the trials I have made, 
it appears that the acid spirit in tar-water possesseth the virtues, 
in an eminent degree,, of that of gualaaum^ and other medicinal 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 383 

48. Qualities in a degree too strong for human nature to subdue, 
and assimilate to itself must hurt the constitution. All acids, 
therefore, may not be useful or innocent. But this seemeth an 
acid so thoroughly concocted, so gentle, bland, and temperate, and 
withal a spirit so fine and volatile, as readily to enter the smallest 
vessels, and be assimilated with the utmost ease. 

49. If any one were minded to dissolve some of the resin, 
together with the salt or spirit, he need only mix some spirit of 
wine with the water. But such an entire solution of resins and 
gums as to qualify them for entering and pervading the animal 
system, like the fine acid spirit that first flies off from the subject, 
is perhaps impossible to obtain. It is an apothegm of the 
chemists, derived from Helmont 48 , that whoever can make myrrh 
soluble by the human body has the secret of prolonging his days : 
and Boerhaave 49 owns that there seems to be truth in this, from its 
resisting putrefaction. Now, this quality is as remarkable in tar, 
with which the ancients embalmed and preserved dead bodies. 
And though Boerhaave himself, and other chemists before him, 
have given methods for making solutions of myrrh, yet it is by 
means of alcohol which extracts only the inflammable parts. And 
it doth not seem that any solution of myrrh is impregnated with 
its salt or acid spirit. It may not, therefore, seem strange if this 
water should be found more beneficial for procuring health and 
long life than any solution of myrrh whatsoever. 

50. Certainly divers resins and gums may have virtues, and yet 
not be able for their grossness to pass the lacteals and other finer 
vessels, nor yet, perhaps, readily impart those virtues to a men- 
struum that may with safety and speed convey them throughout 
the human body. Upon all which accounts, I believe tar-water 
will be found to have singular advantages. It is observed that 
acid spirits prove the stronger, by how much the greater degree of 
heat is required to raise them. And indeed there seemeth to be 
no acid more gentle than this obtained by the simple affusion of 
cold water ; which carries off from the subject the most light and 

48 J. B. Van Helmont(i572 1644), prob- soul he placed in the stomach, offering as one 

ably the greatest chemist before Lavoisier. reason that when we hear bad news we 

He strove to carry out the notions of Para- lose appetite for food. His works were 

celsus, by whose writings he was attracted edited by his son, F. M. Van Helmont. 

to chemistry and alchemy. The seat of the 49 Elementa Cbemia, torn. II. p. 231. 

384 Siris : a Chain of 

subtle parts, and, if one may so speak, the very flower of its 
specific qualities. And here it is to be noted that the volatile salt 
and spirit of vegetables do, by gently stimulating the solids, 
attenuate the fluids contained in them, and promote secretions, 
and that they are penetrating and active, contrary to the general 
nature of other acids. * 

51. It is a great maxim for health, that the juices of the body be 
kept fluid in a due proportion. Therefore, the acid volatile spirit 
in tar-water, at once attenuating and cooling in a moderate 
degree, must greatly conduce to health, as a mild salutary de- 
obstruent, quickening the circulation of the fluids without wound- 
ing the solids, thereby gently removing or preventing those 
obstructions which are the great and general cause of most 
chronical diseases ; in this manner answering to the antihysterics, 
assafcetida^ galbanum^ myrrh, amber, and, in general, to all the 
resins and gums of trees or shrubs useful in nervous cases. 

52. Warm water is itself a deobstruent. Therefore the infusion 
of tar drunk warm is easier insinuated into all the nice capillary 
vessels, and acts not only by virtue of the balsam, but also by that 
of the vehicle. Its taste, its diuretic quality, its being so great a 
cordial, shew the activity of this medicine. And, at the same time 
that it quickens the sluggish blood of the hysterical, its balsamic 
oily nature abates the too rapid motion of the sharp thin blood in 
those who are hectic. There is a lentor and smoothness in the 
blood of healthy strong people ; on the contrary, there is often an 
acrimony and solution in that of weakly morbid persons. The 
fine particles of tar are not only warm and active,, they are also 
balsamic and emollient; softening and enriching the sharp and 
vapid blood, and healing the erosions occasioned thereby in the 
blood-vessels and glands. 

53. Tar-water possesseth the stomachic and cardiac qualities 
of elixir proprietath, Stoughton's drops, and many such tinctures 
and extracts ; with this difference, that it worketh its effect more 
safely, as it hath nothing of that spirit of wine, which, however 
mixed and disguised, may yet be well accounted a poison in 
some degree. 

54. Such medicines are supposed to be diaphoretic, which, being 
of an active and subtle nature, pass through the whole system, 
and work their effect in the finest capillaries and perspiratory 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inqidries, &c. 385 

ducts, which they gently cleanse and open. Tar-water is ex- 
tremely well fitted to work by such an insensible diaphoresis, 
by the fineness and activity of its acid volatile spirit. And surely 
those parts ought to be ver y fine, which can scour the perspiratory 
ducts, under the scarf skin or cuticle, if it be true, that one grain 
of sand would cover the mouths of more than a hundred thousand. 

55. Another way wherein tar-water operates is by urine, than 
which perhaps none is more safe and effectual, for cleansing the 
blood and carrying off its salts. But it seems to produce its prin- 
cipal effect as an alterative, sure and easy, much safer than those 
vehement, purgative, emetic, and salivating medicines, which do 
violence to nature. 

56. An obstruction of some vessels causeth the blood to move 
more swiftly in other vessels which are not obstructed. Hence 
manifold disorders. A liquor that dilutes and attenuates resolves 
the concretions which obstruct. Tar-water is such a liquor. It 
may be said, indeed, of common water, that it attenuates ; also 
of mercurial preparations, that they attenuate. But it should 
be considered that mere water only distends the vessels, and 
thereby weakens their tone ; and that mercury by its great mo- 
mentum may justly be suspected of hurting the fine capillaries, 
which two deobstruents therefore might easily overact their parts, 
and (by lessening the force of the elastic vessels) remotely produce 
those concretions they are intended to remove. 

57. Weak and rigid fibres are looked on by the most able 
physicians, as sources of two different classes of distempers: a 
sluggish motion of the liquids occasioning weak fibres : therefore 
tar-water is good to strengthen them, as it gently accelerates 
their contents. On the other hand, being an unctuous, bland 
fluid, it moistens and softens the dry and stiff fibres, and so 
proves a remedy for both extremes. 

58. Common soaps are compositions of lixivial salt and oil. 
The corrosive acrimony of the saline particles, being softened 
by the mixture of an unctuous substance, they insinuate them- 
selves into the small ducts with less difficulty and danger. The 
combination of these different substances makes up a very subtle 
and active medicine, fitted for mixing with all humours, and 
resolving all obstructions. Soap, therefore, is justly esteemed a 
most efficacious medicine in many distempers. Alkaline soap is 

VOL. n. c c 

386 Siris: a Chain of 

allowed to be cleansing, attenuating, opening, resolving, sweeten- 
ing ; it is pectoral, vulnerary, diuretic, and hath other good 
qualities which are also to be found in tar-water. It is granted 
that oil and acid salts combined together exist in vegetables, 
and that consequently there are acid soaps as well as alkaline. 
And the saponaceous nature of the acid vegetable spirits is what 
renders them so diuretic, sudorific, penetrating, abstersive, and 
resolving. Such, for instance, is the acid spirit of guaiacum. And 
all these same virtues seem to be in tar-water in a mild and 
salutary degree, 

59. It is the general opinion that all acids coagulate the blood. 
Boerhaave 50 excepts vinegar, which he holds to be a soap, inasmuch 
as it is found to contain an oil as well as an acid spirit. Hence 
it is both unctuous and penetrating, a powerful antiphlogistic, 
and preservative against corruption and infection. Now it seems 
evident that tar-water is a soap as well as vinegar. For, though 
it be a character of resin, which is an inspissated gross oil, not 
to dissolve in water (sect. 47), yet the salts attract some fine 
particles of essential oil : which fine oil serves as a vehicle for 
the acid salts, and shews itself in the colour of the tar-water : 
for all pure salts are colourless. And, though the resin will not 
dissolve in water, yet the subtle oil, in which the vegetable salts 
are lodged, may as well mix with water as vinegar doth, which 
contains both oil and salt. And, as the oil in tar-water discovers 
itself to the eye, so the acid salts do manifest themselves to the 
taste. Tar-water therefore is a soap, and as such hath the 
medicinal qualities of soap. 

60. It operates more gently as the acid salts lose their acri- 
mony, being sheathed in oil 5I , and thereby approaching the nature 
of neutral salts, are more benign and friendly to the animal 
system : and more effectually, as, by the help of a volatile, smooth, 
insinuating oil, those same salts are more easily introduced into 
the capillary ducts. Therefore, in fevers and epidemical dis- 
tempers it is (and I have found it so), as well as in chronical 
diseases, a most safe and efficacious medicine, being good against 
too great fluidity as a balsamic, and good against viscidity as a 

f Elemenfa Cbemfa, torn. II. p. 216. Mr. Reid's Letter to Dr. Hales. Reid re- 

51 Cf. Berkeley's Letter to Thomas Prior, commends that the medicinal acid should 

on the Virtues of Tar-water in tbe Plague be freed from its oil. 

(vcl III. p. 484) especially the reference to 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 387 

soap. There is something in the fiery corrosive nature of lixivial 
salts, which makes alkaline soap a dangerous remedy in all cases 
where an inflammation is apprehended. And, as inflammations 
are often occasioned by obstructions, it should seem an acid soap 
was much the safer deobstruent. 

61. Even the best turpentines, however famous for their vul- 
nerary and detergent qualities, have yet been observed by their 
warmth to dispose to inflammatory tumours. But the acid spirit 
(sect. 7, 8) being in so great proportion in tar-water, renders it 
a cooler and safer medicine. And the sethereal oil of turpentine, 
though an admirable dryer, healer, and anodyne, when outwardly 
applied to wounds and ulcers, and not less useful in cleansing 
the urinary passages and healing their ulcerations, yet is known 
to be of a nature so very relaxing as sometimes to do much mis- 
chief when taken inwardly. Tar-water is not attended with the 
same ill effects, which I believe are owing in a great measure to 
the aethereal oils being deprived of the acid spirit in distillation, 
which, vellicating and contracting as a stimulus, might have 
proved a counterpoise to the excessive lubricating and relaxing 
qualities of the oil. 

63. Woods in decoction do not seem to yield so ripe and 
elaborate a juice, as that which is deposited in the cells or loculi 
terebinthiaci.) and spontaneously oozes from them. And indeed, 
though the balsam of Peru, obtained by boiling wood and scumming 
the decoction, be a very valuable medicine, and of great account in 
divers cases, particularly asthmas, nephritic pains, nervous colics, 
and obstructions, yet I do verily think (and I do not say this 
without experience) that tar-water is a more efficacious remedy 
in all those cases than even that costly drug. 

63. It hath been already observed that the restorative pectoral 
antihysterical virtues of the most precious balsams and gums are 
possessed in a high degree by tar- water (sect. 9, 21, 22, 23). And 
I do not know any purpose answered by the wood drinks for which 
tar- water may not be used with at least equal success. It contains 
the virtues even of guaiacum, which seems the most efficacious of 
all woods, warming and sweetening the humours, diaphoretic and 
useful in gouts, dropsies, and rheums, as well as in the foul disease. 
Nor should it seem strange if the virtues obtained by boiling an 
old dry wood prove inferior to those extracted from a balsam. 

cc 2 

388 Siris : a Chain of 

64. There is a fine volatile spirit in the waters of Geronster, 
the most esteemed of all the fountains about the Spa 52 , but whose 
waters do not bear transporting. The stomachic, cardiac, and 
diuretic qualities of this fountain somewhat resemble those of 
tar-water, which, if I am not greatly mistaken, contains the virtues 
of the best chalybeat and sulphureous waters ; with this difference, 
that those waters are apt to affect the head in taking, which 
tar-water is not. Besides, there is a regimen of diet to be 
observed, especially with chalybeat waters, which I never found 
necessary with this. Tar-water layeth under no restraint either 
as to diet, hours, or employment. A man may study, or exercise, 
or repose, keep his own hours, pass his time either within or 
without, and take wholesome nourishment of any kind. 

65. The use of mineral waters, however excellent for the nerves 
and stomach, is often suspended by colds and inflammatory dis- 
orders; in which they are acknowledged to be very dangerous: 
whereas tar-water is so far from hurting in those cases, or being 
discontinued on that account, that it greatly contributes to their 
cure (sect. 7). 

66. Cordials, vulgarly so called, act immediately on the stomach, 
and by consent of nerves on the head. But medicines of an 
operation too fine and light to produce a sensible effect in the 
frim* <vi<e may, nevertheless, in their passage through the capil- 
laries, operate on the sides of those small vessels, in such manner 
as to quicken their oscillations, and consequently the motion 
of their contents, producing, in issue and effect, all the benefits 
of a cordial much more lasting and salutary than those of [ 33 dis- 
tilled] spirits, which by their caustic and coagulating qualities do 
incomparably more mischief than good. Such a cardiac medicine 
is tar-water. The transient fits of mirth, produced from fermented 
liquors, [ 54 and distilled spirits,] are attended with proportionable 
depression of spirit in their intervals. But the calm cheerfulness 
arising from this 'water of health (as it may be justly called) is 
permanent. In which it emulates the virtues of that famous 
plant Gen Seng 65 , so much valued in China as the only cordial 

M The waters of Spa have been longer in M * Fermented ' in first edition, 

repute than almost any others in Europe. M Not in the early editions. 

Only one of the springs is in Spa itself ; the w Gen (Gin) Seng is the root of an 

others are at some distance in the woods. Asiatic plant (Panax Scbin Seng). It has 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 389 

that raises the spirits without depressing them. Tar-water is 
so far from hurting the nerves, as common cordials do, that it 
is highly useful in cramps, spasms of the viscera, and paralytic 

67. Emetics are on certain occasions administered with great 
success. But the overstraining and weakening of nature may 
be very justly apprehended from a course of emetics. They are 
nevertheless prescribed and substituted for exercise. But it is 
well remarked in Plato's Tlmaus^ that vomits and purges are the 
worst exercise in the world. There is something in the mild 
operation of tar-water, that seems more friendly to the economy, 
and forwards the digestions and secretions in a way more natural 
and benign ; the mildness of this medicine being such that I 
have known children take it, for above six months together, with 
great benefit, and without any inconvenience : and, after long 
and repeated experience, I do esteem it a most excellent diet- 
drink, fitted to all seasons and ages. 

68. It is I think allowed that the origin of the gout lies in a 
faulty digestion. And it is remarked by the ablest physicians, 
that the gout is so difficult to cure, because heating medicines 
aggravate its immediate, and cooling its remote cause. But tar- 
water, although it contains active principles that strengthen the 
digestion beyond anything I know, and consequently must be 
highly useful, either to prevent or lessen the following fit, or by 
invigorating the blood to cast it upon the extremities, yet it is not 
of so heating a nature as to do harm even in the fit. Nothing is 
more difficult or disagreeable than to argue men out of their pre- 
judices ; I shall not therefore enter into controversies on this sub- 
ject, but, if men dispute and object, shall leave the decision to time 
and trial 

69. In the modern practice, soap, opium, and mercury, bid 
fairest for Universal Medicines. The first of these is highly 
spoken of. But then, those who magnify it most except against 
the use of it in such cases where the obstruction is attended with 

long been famous among the Chinese as a says that the roots, which resemble the 

stimulant and restorative, especially in dis- human form, are gathered and dried, and 

eases resulting from weakness of body. enter into almost every medicine used by 

The most eminent physicians in China have the Tartars and Chinese, 
written volumes on its medicinal virtues, in M P. 89. 

a great variety of diseases. Don, the botanist, 

390 Siris: a Chain of 

a putrefactive alkali, or where an inflammatory disposition ap- 
pears* It is acknowledged to be very dangerous in a phthisis, 
fever, and some other cases in which tar-water is not only safe but 

70. Opium, though a medicine of great extent and efficacy, yet 
is frequently known to produce grievous disorders in hysterical or 
hypochondriacal persons, who make a great part, perhaps the 
greatest, of those who lead sedentary lives in these islands. Be- 
sides, upon all constitutions dangerous errors may be committed 
in the use of opium. 

71. Mercury 5 7 hath of late years become a medicine of very 
general use the extreme minuteness, mobility, and momentum of 
its parts rendering it a most powerful cleanser of all obstructions, 
even in the most minute capillaries. But then we should be 
cautious in the use of it, if we consider that the very thing which 
gives it power of doing good above other deobstruents doth also 
dispose it to do mischief. I mean its great momentum, the 
weight of it being about ten times that of blood, and the momen- 
tum being the joint product of the weight and velocity, it must 
needs operate with great force; and may it not be justly feared 
that so great a force, entering the minutest vessels, and breaking 
the obstructed matter, might also break or wound the fine tender 
coats of those small vessels, and so bring on the untimely effects 
of old age, producing more, perhaps, and worse obstructions than 
those it removed ? Similar consequences may justly be appre- 
hended from other mineral and ponderous medicines. Therefore, 
upon the whole, there will not perhaps be found any medicine 
more general in its use, or more salutary in its effects, than tar- 

72. To suppose that all distempers, arising from very different, 
and it may be from contrary causes, can be cured by one and the 
same medicine 58 must seem chimerical. But it may with truth 
be affirmed, that the virtue of tar-water extends to a surprising 
variety of cases very distant and unlike (sect. 3, 4, 5, 6, 21, &c.). 
This I have experienced in my neighbours, my family, and myself. 

67 Mercury was much in vogue with the 12. It was Berkeley's suggestion that tar- 
Arabian alchemists. Cf. sect. 194. water may be a Universal Medicine that 

' 8 Cf. the definition of a Panacea, in chiefly excited the faculty against Siris. 
Berkeley's First Lstter to Thomas Prior, sect. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 391: 

And, as I live in a remote corner, among poor neighbours, who 
for want of a regular physician have often recourse to me, 1 have 
had frequent opportunities of trial, which convince me it is of so 
just a temperament as to be an enemy to all extremes. I have 
known it to do great good in a cold, watery constitution, as a 
cardiac and stomachic: and at the same time allay heat and 
feverish thirst in another. I have known it correct costive habits 
in some, and the contrary habit in others. Nor will this seem 
incredible if it be considered that middle qualities naturally reduce 
the extreme. Warm water, for instance, mixed with hot and cold, 
will lessen the heat in that, and the cold in this. 

73. They who know the great virtues of common soap, whose 
coarse lixivial salts are the product of culinary fire, will not think 
it incredible that virtues of mighty force and extent should be 
found in a fine acid soap (sect. 58), the salts and oil whereof are a 
most elaborate product of nature and the solar light. 

74. It is certain tar-water warms, and therefore some may per- 
haps still think it cannot cool. The more effectually to remove 
this prejudice, let it be farther considered that as, on the one 
hand, opposite causes do sometimes produce the same effect, for 
instance, heat by rarefaction and cold by condensation do both 
increase the air's elasticity ; so, on the other hand, the same cause 
shall sometimes produce opposite effects : heat for instance [-^thins, 
and again heat coagulates] the blood. It is not therefore strange, 
that tar-water should warm one habit and cool another, have one 
good effect on a cold constitution, and another good effect on an 
inflamed one ; nor, if this be so, that it should cure opposite dis- 
orders. All which justifies to reason what I have often found true 
in fact. The salts, the spirits, the heat of tar-water are of a tem- 
perature congenial to the constitution of a man, which receives 
from it a kindly warmth, but no inflaming heat. It was remark- 
able that two children in my neighbourhood, being in a course of 
tar-water, upon an intermission of it, never failed to have their 
issues inflamed by a humour much more hot and sharp than at 
other times. But its great use in the small-pox, pleurisies, and 
fevers is a sufficient proof that tar-water is not of an inflaming 

75. I have dwelt the longer on this head, because some gentle- 

6tt * In one degree thins, and in another coagulates ' in first edition. 

392 Siris : a Chain of 

men of the faculty have thought fit to declare that tar-water must 
inflame 60 , and that they would never visit any patient in a fever 
who had been a drinker of it. But I will venture to affirm, that 
it is so far from increasing a feverish inflammation, that it is on 
the contrary a most ready means to allay and extinguish it. It is 
of admirable use in fevers, being at the same time the surest, 
safest and most effectual, both paregoric and cordial : for the truth 
of which I appeal to any person's experience who shall take a large 
draught of it milk warm in the paroxysm of a fever, even when 
plain water or herb-teas shall be found to have little or no effect. 
To me it seems that its singular and surprising use in fevers of all 
kinds, were there nothing else, would be alone sufficient to recom- 
mend it to the public. 

76. The best physicians make the idea of a fever to consist in a 
too great velocity of the heart's motion, and too great resistance 
at the capillaries 61 . Tar-water, as it softens and gently stimulates 
those nice vessels, helps to propel their contents, and so contri- 
butes to remove the latter part of the disorder. And for the 
former, the irritating acrimony which accelerates the motion of 
the heart is diluted by watery, corrected by acid, and softened 
by balsamic remedies, all which intentions are answered by this 
aqueous, acid, balsamic medicine. Besides, the viscid juices co- 
agulated by the febrile heat are resolved by tar- water as a soap, 
and not too far resolved, as it is a gentle acid soap j to which we 
may add, that the peccant humours and salts are carried off by its 
diaphoretic and diuretic qualities. 

77. I found all this confirmed by my own experience in the late 
sickly season of the year one thousand seven hundred and forty- 
one 62 , having had twenty-five fevers in my own family cured by this 
medicinal water, drunk copiously. The same method was practised 
on several of my poor neighbours with equal success. It suddenly 
calmed the feverish anxieties, and seemed every glass to refresh, 
and infuse life and spirit into the patient. At first some of these 
patients had been vomited, but afterwards I found that without 
vomiting, bleeding, blistering, or any other evacuation or medicine 
whatever, very bad fevers could be cured by the sole drinking of 

60 Cf. sect. 7. tensed. 

61 Hence the internal heat, with cold at 62 Cf. Berkeley's letters to Thomas Prior, 
the extremities, by which fevers are charac- in February and May, 1741. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 393 

tar-water, milk warm, and in good quantity, perhaps a large glass 
every hour [ 6;3 or oftener] taken in bed. And it was remarkable 
that such as were cured by this comfortable cordial recovered health 
and spirits at once, while those who had been cured by evacua- 
tions often languished long, even after the fever had left them, be- 
fore they could recover of their medicines and regain their strength. 

78. In peripneumonies and pleurisies I have observed tar-water 
to be excellent, having known some pleuritic persons cured with- 
out bleeding, by a blister early applied to the stitch, and the 
copious drinking of tar-water, four or five quarts, or even more in 
four-and-twenty hours. And I do recommend it to farther trial, 
whether in all cases of a pleurisy, one moderate bleeding, a blister 
on the spot, and plenty of tepid tar-water may not suffice, without 
those repeated and immoderate bleedings, the bad effects of which 
are perhaps never got over. I do even suspect that a pleuritic 
patient betaking himself to bed betimes, and drinking very copi- 
ously of tar-water, may be cured by that alone, without bleeding, 
blistering, or any other medicine whatsoever : certajnly I have 
found this succeed at a glass every half hour. 

79. I have known a bloody flux 64 of long continuance, after 
divers medicines had been tried in vain, cured by tar-water. But 
that which I take to be the most speedy and effectual remedy in a 
bloody flux is a clyster of an ounce of common brown resin dis- 
solved over a fire in two ounces of oil, and added to a pint of 
broth, which not long since I had frequent occasion of trying when 
that distemper was epidemical. Nor can I say that any to whom 
I advised it miscarried. This experiment I was led to make by 
the opinion I had of tar as a balsamic : and resin is only tar 

80. Nothing that I know corroborates the stomach so much as 
tar-water (sect. 68). Whence it follows, that it must be of sin- 
gular use to persons afflicted with the gout. And, from what I 
have observed in five or six instances, I do verily believe it the 
best and safest medicine either to prevent the gout, or so to 
strengthen nature against the fit, as to drive it from the vitals. 
Dr. Sydenham, in his Treatise of the Gout 65 , declares that whoever 

63 Not in the early editions. of Locke and Boyle, and the greatest Eng- 

61 Cf. letter to Prior, Feb. 8, 1741. Hsh physician of the seventeenth century. 

65 Tractates de Podagra (see sect. 29, 40) He was himself a martyr to gout, 
by Sydenham (16241689), the friend 

394 Siris : a Chain of 

finds a medicine the most efficacious for strengthening digestion 
will do more service in the cure of that and other chronical dis- 
tempers, than he can even form a notion of. And I leave it to 
trial, whether tar-water be not that medicine, as I myself am per- 
suaded it is, by all the experiments I could make. But in all trials 
I would recommend discretion ; for instance, a man with the gout 
in his stomach ought not to drink cold tar-water. This Essay 
leaves room for future experiment in every part of it, not pretend- 
ing to be a complete treatise. 

81. It is evident to sense that blood, urine, and other animal 
juices, being let to stand, soon contract a great acrimony. Juices, 
therefore, from a bad digestion retained, and stagnating in the 
body, grow sharp and putrid. Hence a fermenting heat, the 
immediate cause of the gout. The curing this by cooling medi- 
cines, as they would increase the antecedent cause, must be a vain 
attempt. On the other hand, spices and spirituous liquors, while 
they contribute to remove the antecedent cause or bad digestion, 
would, by inflaming the blood, increase the proximate or immediate 
cause of the gout, to wit, the fermenting heat. The scope there- 
fore must be, to find a medicine that shall corroborate but not 
inflame. Bitter herbs are recommended ; but they are weak in 
comparison of tar-water. 

83. The great force of tar- water to correct the acrimony of 
the blood appears in nothing more than in the cure of a gangrene 
from an internal cause j which was performed on a servant of 
my own, by prescribing the copious and constant use of tar- 
water for a few weeks. From my representing tar-water as good 
for so many things, some perhaps may conclude it is good for 
nothing. But charity obligeth me to say what I know, and what 
I think, howsoever it may be taken. Men may censure and object 
as they please, but I appeal to time and experiment. Effects 
misimputed, cases wrong told, circumstances overlooked, perhaps, 
too, prejudices and partialities against truth may for a time 
prevail, and keep her at the bottom of her well, from whence 
nevertheless she emergeth sooner or later, and strikes the eyes 
of all those who do not keep them shut. 

83. Boerhaave 66 thinks a specific may be found for that peculiar 

6 * See his Apborismi de Cognoscendis et pp. 297320. Cf. Berkeley's Further 
Curendis Morbis (1708), aph. 1390, 1391 ; Thoughts on Tar-water, vol. III. p. 496. 
also his Praxis Medica(ij28). ' De Variolis,' 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 395 

venom which infects the blood in the small-pox, and that the 
prospect of so great a public benefit should stir up men to search 
for it. Its wonderful success in preventing and mitigating that 
distemper (sect. 2, 3) would incline one to suspect that tar-water 
is such a specific [ 6 ? especially since I have found it of sovereign 
use as well during the small-pox as before it]. Some think an 
erysipelas and the plague differ only in degree. If so, tar-water 
should be useful in the plague, for I have known it cure an 

84. Tar-water, as cleansing, healing, and balsamic, is good 
in all disorders of the urinary passages, whether obstructed or 
ulcerated. Dr. Lister 68 supposeth, indeed, that turpentines act by 
a caustic quality, which irritates the coats of the urinary ducts 
to expel sand or gravel. But it should seem this expelling diuretic 
virtue consisted rather in the salts than the resin, and conse- 
quently resides in the tar-water, gently stimulating by its salts, 
without the dangerous force of a caustic. The violent operation 
of ipecacuanha lies in its resin, but the saline extract is a gentle 
purge and diuretic, by the stimulus of its salts. 

85. That which acts as a mild cordial (sect. 66), neither hurting 
the capillary vessels as a caustic, nor affecting the nerves, nor 
coagulating the juices, must in all cases be a friend to nature, 
and assist the w vit<e in its struggle against all kinds of contagion. 
And from what I have observed, tar-water appears to me a useful 
preservative in all epidemical disorders, and against all other 
infection whatsoever, as well as that of the small-pox. What 
effects the animi pathemata have in human maladies is well known, 
and consequently the general benefit of such a cardiac [ 69 may be 
reasonably supposed]. 

86. ?As the body is said to clothe the soul, so the nerves may 
be said to constitute her inner garment ? T . And, as the soul 

67 Added in second edition. 70 In sect. 86119. we have a reasoned 

C8 Dr. Martin Lister (1638 1712), a vindication of the utility of tar-water in the 

learned English physician, eminent naturalist, various forms of nervous disease, indigestion, 

frequent contributor to the Pbilos. Trans., and scurvy, with an eloquent appeal to its 

and author of works in natural history and advantages to the studious, 

anatomy of repute in their day. His Journey 71 Yet elsewhere Berkeley speaks of the 

to Paris (1698) was parodied by Dr. King body, including the nerves, as contained in 

in his Journey to London. Dr. Lister was a mind. The two modes of statement are of 

liberal benefactor to the Ashmolean Museum. course easily reconcileable. 
63 ' Cannot be doubted 'in first edition. 

396 Siris : a Chain of 

animates the whole, what nearly touches the soul relates to all. 
Therefore the asperity of tartarous salts, and the fiery acrimony 
of alkaline salts, irritating and wounding the nerves, produce 
nascent passions and anxieties in the soul ; which both aggravate 
distempers, and render men's lives restless and wretched, even 
when they are afflicted with no apparent distemper. This is the 
latent spring of much woe, spleen, and tedium <vlt<e. Small im- 
perceptible irritations of the minutest fibres or filaments, caused 
by the pungent salts of wines and sauces, do so shake and disturb 
the microcosms of high livers, as often to raise tempests in courts 
and senates. Whereas the gentle vibrations that are raised in 
the nerves, by a fine subtle acid, sheathed in a smooth volatile 
oil (sect. 59, 61), softly stimulating and bracing the nervous 
vessels and fibres, promote a due circulation and secretion of 
the animal juices, and create a calm satisfied sense of health. 
And, accordingly, I have often known tar-water procure sleep and 
compose the spirits in cruel vigils, occasioned either by sickness 
or by too intense application of mind. 

87. In diseases sometimes accidents happen from without by 
mismanagement, sometimes latent causes operate within, jointly 
with the specific taint or peculiar cause of the malady. The 
causes of distempers are often complicated, and there may be 
something in the idiosyncrasy of the patient that puzzles the 
physician. It may therefore be presumed that no medicine is 
infallible, not even in any one disorder. But, as tar-water pos- 
sesseth the virtues of fortifying the stomach, as well as purifying 
and invigorating the blood, beyond any medicine that I know, 
it may be presumed of great and general efficacy in all those 
numerous illnesses which take their rise from foul or vapid blood, 
or from a bad digestion. The animal spirits are elaborated from 
the blood. Such therefore as the blood is, such will be the animal 
spirits, more or less, weaker or stronger. This sheweth the use- 
fulness of tar-water in all hysteric and hypochondriac cases : which, 
together with the maladies from indigestion, comprise almost 
the whole tribe of chronical diseases. 

88. The scurvy may be reckoned in these climates a universal 
malady, as people in general are subject to it, and as it mixes 
more or less in almost all diseases. Whether this proceeds from 
want of elasticity in our air, upon which the tone of the vessels 

^Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 397 

depends, and upon that the several secretions ; or whether it 
proceeds from the moisture of our climate, or the grossness of 
our food, or the salts in our atmosphere, or from ail these to- 
gether thus much at least seems not absurd to suppose, that as 
physicians in Spain and Italy are apt to suspect the venereal taint 
to be a latent principle, and bear a part in every illness, so far, 
as good reason, the scurvy should be considered by our physicians 
as having some share in most disorders and constitutions that fall 
in their way. It is certain our perspiration is not so free as 
in clearer air and warmer climates. Perspirable humours not 
discharged will stagnate and putrefy. A diet of animal food will 
be apt to render the juices of our bodies alkalescent. Hence 
ichorous and corrosive humours and many disorders. Moist air 
makes viscid blood ; and saline air inflames this viscid blood. 
Hence broken capillaries, extravasated blood, spots, and ulcers, 
and other scorbutic symptoms. The body of a man attracts and 
imbibes the moisture and salts of the air and whatever floats in 
the atmosphere, which as it is common to all, so it affects all 
more or less. 

89. Doctor Musgrave 72 thinks the Devonshire scurvy a relic 
of the leprosy, and that it is not owing to the qualities of the air. 
But, as these insulars in general live in a gross saline air, and 
their vessels being less elastic are consequently less able to 
subdue and cast off what their bodies as sponges draw in, one 
would be tempted to suspect the air not a little concerned, 
especially in such a situation as that of Devonshire. In all these 
British islands we enjoy a great mediocrity of climate; the effect 
whereof is, that we have neither heat enough to exalt and dissipate 
the gross vapours, as in Italy, nor cold enough to condense and 
precipitate them, as in Sweden. So they are left floating in the 
air, which we constantly breathe, and imbibe through the whole 
surface of our bodies. And this, together with exhalations from 
coal fires, and the various fossils wherein we abound, doth greatly 
contribute to render us scorbutic and hypochondriac. 

90. There are some who derive all diseases from the scurvy, 

72 Dr. William Musgrave (1655 1721). reputation. See Munk's Roll of the Royal 

an eminent physician, Secretary to the Royal College of Physicians of London (pp. 446 

Society, and a contributor to the Pbilos. 448) for an interesting account of Dr. Mus- 

Trans. He settled at Exeter in 1691, and grave and his works, 
practised there for thirty years with a high 

398 Siris : a Chain of 

which indeed must be allowed to create or mimic most other 
maladies. Boerhaave? 3 tells us, it produceth pleuritic colic, 
nephritic, hepatic pains, various fevers, hot, malignant, inter- 
mitting dysenteries, faintings, anxieties, dropsies, consumptions, 
convulsions, palsies, fluxes of blood. In a word, it may be said 
to contain the seeds and origin of almost all distempers. In- 
somuch that a medicine which cures all sorts of scurvy may be 
presumed good for most maladies. 

91. The scurvy doth not only in variety of symptoms imitate 
most distempers, but also, when come to a height, in degree of 
virulence equal the most malignant. Of this we have a remarkable 
proof in that horrible description of the scorbutic patients in the 
hospitals of Paris, given by Monsieur Poupart 74 , in the Memoirs 
of the Royal Academy of Sciences, for the year 1699. That 
author thinks he saw some resemblance in it to the plague of 
Athens 75. It is hard to imagine anything more dreadful than the 
case of those men, rotting alive by scurvy in its supreme degree. 
To obviate such putrefaction, I believe the most effectual method 
would be, to embalm (if one may so say) the living body with 
tar-water copiously drunk; and this belief is not without ex- 

92. It is the received opinion that the animal salts of a sound 
body are of a neutral, bland, and benign nature : that is, the salts 
in the juices past the prim<e via are neither acid or alkaline, 
having been subdued by the constitution, and changed into a 
third nature. Where the constitution wants force to do this, 
the aliment is not duly assimilated : and, so far as the salts 
retain their pristine qualities, sickly symptoms ensue, acids and 
alkalies not perfectly subdued producing weak ferments in the 
juices. Hence scurvy, cachexy, and a long train of ills. 

93. A cachexy or ill habit is much of the same kind with the 
scurvy, proceeds from the same causes, and is attended with like 
symptoms, which are so manifold and various, that the scurvy may 

73 Praxis Medico * De Scorbuto,' torn. The paper referred to, fitranges Effets du 
V. pp. TOI 17. Scorbut arrivez a Paris en 1699, appeared 

74 Francis Poupart ( 1 66l 1 709), the cele- in the Mdmoires in November of that year, 
brated French anatomist, and member of the p. 237. It is also contained in the Pbilos. 
Academy, was a frequent contributor, espe- Trans. No. 318. 

cially on comparative anatomy, to the Journal 75 Lucret. De Rerum Nat. VI. 1136 

des Savans, and the Mimoires de VAcadtmie. \ 284. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries^ &c. 399 

well be looked on as a general cachexy, infecting the whole habit, 
and vitiating all the digestions. Some have reckoned as many 
sorts of the scurvy as there are taints of the blood. Others have 
supposed it a collection of all illnesses together. Some suppose it 
an accumulation of several diseases in fieri. Others take it for an 
assemblage of the relics of old distempers. 

94. But thus much is certain, the cure of the scurvy is no more 
to be attempted by strongly active medicines, than (to use the 
similitude of an ingenious writer) a thorn in the flesh, or pitch on 
silk, to be removed by force. The viscid humour must be gently 
resolved and diluted, the tone of the vessels recovered by a 
moderate stimulation, and the tender fibres and capillary vessels 
gradually cleared from the concreted stuff that adheres and ob- 
structs them. All which is in the aptest manner performed by a 
watery diluent, containing a fine vegetable soap. And although a 
complete cure by alteratives, operating on the small capillaries, 
and by insensible discharges, must require length of time, yet the 
good effect of this medicine on cachectic and scorbutic persons is 
soon perceived, by the change it produceth in their pale dis- 
coloured looks, giving a florid healthy countenance in less time 
than perhaps any other medicine. 

95. It is supposed by physicians that the immediate cause of 
the scurvy lies in the blood, the fibrous part of which is too thick 
and the serum too thin and sharp ; and that hence ariseth the 
great difficulty in the cure, because in the correcting of one part 
regard must be had to the other. It is well known how extremely 
difficult it is to cure an inveterate scurvy : how many scorbutic 
patients have grown worse by an injudicious course of evacuations : 
how many are even rendered incurable by the treatment of incon- 
siderate physicians ; and how difficult, tedious, and uncertain, the 
cure is in the hands even of the best, who are obliged to use such 
variety and change of medicines, in the different stages of that 
malady : which nevertheless may be cured (if I may judge by what 
I have experienced) by the sole, regular, constant, copious use of 

96. Tar-water moderately inspissates with its balsamic virtue, 
and renders mild the thin and sharp part of the blood, the same as 
a soapy medicine dissolves the grumous concretions of the fibrous 
part. As a balsam it destroys the ulcerous acrimony of the 

400 Siris : a Chain of 

humours, and as a deobstruent it opens and cleans the vessels, 
restores their tone, and strengthens the digestion, whose defects 
are the principal cause of scurvy and cachexy. 

97. In the cure of the scurvy the principal aim is to subdue the 
acrimony of the blood and juices. But, as this acrimony proceeds 
from different causes, or even opposite, as acid and alkaline, what 
is good in one sort of scurvy proves dangerous or even mortal in 
another. It is well known that hot antiscorbutics, where the 
juices of the body are alkalescent, increase the disease. And sour 
fruits and vegetables produce a like effect in the scurvy, caused by 
an acid acrimony. Hence fatal blunders are committed by un- 
wary practitioners, who, not distinguishing the nature of the 
disease, do frequently aggravate instead of curing it. If I may 
trust what trials I have been able to make, this water is good in 
the several kinds of scurvy, acid, alkaline, and muriatic, and I 
believe it the only medicine that cures them all without doing 
hurt to any. As it contains a volatile acid (sect. 7) with a fine 
volatile oi^why may not a medicine cool in one part and warm in 
another be a remedy to either extreme (sect. 72)? I have observed 
it to produce a kindly genial warmth without heat, a thing to be 
aimed at in all sorts of scurvy. Besides, the balsam in tar-water 
sheathes all scorbutic salts alike : and its great virtues as a digester 
and deobstruent are of general use in all scorbutic, and I may add, 
in all chronical cases whatsoever. 

98. I cannot be sure that I have tried it in a scrofulous case, 
though I have tried it successfully in one that I suspected to be 
so. And I apprehend it would be very serviceable in such 
disorders. For although Dr. Gibbs in his treatise on the King's 
Evil 76 derives that disease from a coagulating acid, which is also 
agreeable to the opinion of some other physicians, and although 
tar- water contain an acid, yet, as it is a soap (sect. 58), it resolves 
instead of coagulating the juices of the body. 

99. For hysterical and hypochondriacal disorders so frequent 
among us, it is commonly supposed that all acids are bad. But I 
will venture to except the acid soap of tar-water, having found by 
my own experience and that of many others, that it raises the 

76 Observations of Various Cases of Scropkulous Disorders, commonly called tbe King's 
Evil. London, 1702. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 401 

spirits, and is an excellent anti-hysteric, nor less innocent than 
potent, which cannot be said of those others in common use, that 
often leave people worse than they found them. 

loo. In a high degree of scurvy a mercurial salivation is looked 
on by many as the only cure ; which, by the vehement shock it 
gives the whole frame, and the sensible secretion it produceth, 
may be thought more adequate to such an effect. But the disorder 
occasioned by that violent process, it is to be feared, may never 
be got over. The immediate danger, the frequent bad effects, the 
extreme trouble and nice care attending such a course, do very 
deservedly make people afraid of it. And though the sensible 
secretion therein be so great, yet in a longer tract of time the use 
of tar-water may produce as great a discharge of scorbutic salts by 
urine and by perspiration the effect of which last, though not so 
sensible, may yet be greater than that of salivation ; especially if 
it be true that in common life insensible perspiration is to nutri- 
tion, and all sensible excretions, as five to three. 

TO i. Many hysteric and scorbutic ailments, many. taints con- 
tracted by themselves, or inherited from their ancestors, afflict the 
people of condition in these islands, often rendering them, upon 
the whole, much more unhappy than those whom poverty and 
labour have ranked in the lowest lot of life, which ailments 
might be safely removed or relieved by the sole use of tar-water ; 
and those lives which seem hardly worth living for bad appetite, 
low spirits, restless nights, wasting pains and anxieties, be ren- 
dered easy and comfortable. 

102. As the nerves are instruments of sensation, it follows that 
spasms in the nerves may produce all symptoms, and therefore a 
disorder in the nervous system shall imitate all distempers, and 
occasion, in appearance, an asthma for instance, a pleurisy, or a 
fit of the stone. Now, whatever is good for the nerves in general 
is good against all such symptoms. But tar-water, as it includes in 
an eminent degree the virtues of warm gums and resins, is of great 
use for comforting and strengthening the nerves (sect. 86), curing 
twitches in the nervous fibres, cramps also, and numbness in the 
limbs, removing anxieties, and promoting sleep: in all which cases 
I have known it very successful. 

103. This safe and cheap medicine suits all circumstances 
and all constitutions, operating easily, curing without disturbing, 

VOL. II. D d 

402 Siris : a Chain of 

raising the spirits without depressing them, a circumstance that 
deserves repeated attention, especially in these climates, where 
strong liquors 77 so fatally and so frequently produce those very 
distresses they are designed to remedy; and, if I am not mis- 
informed, even among the ladies themselves, who are truly much 
to be pitied. Their condition of life makes them a prey to 
imaginary woes, which never fail to grow up in minds unexercised 
and unemployed. To get rid of these, it is said, there are who 
betake themselves to distilled spirits. And it is not improbable 
they are led gradually to the use of those poisons by a certain 
complaisant pharmacy, too much used in the modern practice, 
palsy drops, poppy cordial, plague water, and such like, which 
being in truth nothing but drams disguised, yet, coming from the 
apothecaries, are considered only as medicines. 

104. The soul of man was supposed by many ancient sages to 
be thrust into the human body as into a prison, for punishment of 
past offences. But the worst prison is the body of an indolent 
epicure, whose blood is inflamed by fermented liquors (sect. 66) 
and high sauces, or rendered putrid, sharp, and corrosive, by a 
stagnation of the animal juices through sloth and indolence; 
whose membranes are irritated by pungent salts ; whose mind is 
agitated by painful oscillations of the nervous system (sect. 86), 
and whose nerves are mutually affected by the irregular passions 
of his mind. This ferment in the animal economy darkens and 
confounds the intellect. It produceth vain terrors and vain con- 
ceits, and stimulates the soul with mad desires, which, not being 
natural, nothing in nature can satisfy. No wonder, therefore, 
there are so many fine persons of both sexes, shining themselves, 
and shone on by fortune, who are inwardly miserable and sick of 

105. The hardness of stubbed vulgar constitutions renders them 
insensible of a thousand things that fret and gall those delicate 
people, who, as if their skin was peeled off", feel to the quick every- 
thing that touches them. The remedy for this exquisite and pain- 
ful sensibility is commonly sought from fermented, perhaps from 
distilled, liquors, which render many lives wretched that would 

77 Note what is said of the prevalence, causes, and cure of drunkenness in these islands, 
sect. 103 109. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 403 

otherwise have been only ridiculous. The tender nerves and low 
spirits of such poor creatures would be much relieved by the use 
of tar-water, which might prolong and cheer their lives. I do 
therefore recommend to them the use of a cordial, not only safe 
and innocent, but giving health and spirits as surely as other cor- 
dials destroy them. 

1 06. I do verily think there is not any other medicine what- 
soever so effectual to restore a crazy constitution, and cheer a 
dreary mind, or so likely to subvert that gloomy empire of the 
spleen (sect. 103) which tyrannizeth over the better sort (as they 
are called) of these free nations j and maketh them, in spite of 
their liberty and property, more wretched slaves than even the 
subjects of absolute power, who breathe clear air in a sunny cli- 
mate 78 . While men of low degree often enjoy a tranquillity and 
content that no advantage of birth or fortune can equal. Such, 
indeed, was the case while the rich alone could afford to be de- 
bauched; but when even beggars became debauchees, the case 
was altered. 

107. The public virtue and spirit of the British legislature never 
shewed itself more conspicuous in any act than in that for sup- 
pressing the immoderate use of [ 70 distilled spirits] among the 
people, whose strength and numbers constitute the true wealth of a 
nation : though evasive arts will, it is feared, prevail so long as 
distilled spirits of any kind are allowed, the character of English- 
men in general being that of Brutus, GjjticguiJ wit, <valde *vult. But 
why should such a canker be tolerated in the vitals of a state, under 
any pretence or in any shape whatsoever ? Better by far the whole 
present set of distillers were pensioners of the public, and their 
trade abolished by law ; since all the benefit thereof put together 
would not balance the hundredth part of its mischief. 

108. To prove the destructive effects of such spirits with regard 
both to the human species and individuals, we need not go so far 
as our Colonies, or the savage natives of America. Plain proof 
may be had nearer home. For, albeit there is in every town or 
district throughout England some tough dram-drinker, set up as 
the devil's decoy, to draw in proselytes ; yet the ruined health and 

78 Cf. Alciphron, Dial. II. sect. 17. 

79 * spirituous liquors ' in the early editions. 

D d 2 

404 Siris : a Chain of 

morals, and the beggary of such numbers, evidently shew that we 
need no other enemy to complete our destruction, than this cheap 
luxury at the lower end of the state, and that a nation lighted up 
at both ends must soon be consumed. 

109. It is much to be lamented that our insulars, who act and 
think so much for themselves, should yet, from grossness of air 
and diet, grow stlipid or dote sooner than other people, who by 
virtue of elastic air, water drinking, and light food, preserve their 
faculties to extreme old age ; an advantage which may perhaps be 
approached, if not equalled, even in these regions, by tar-water, 
temperance, and early hours. The last is a sure addition to life, 
not only in regard of time, which, being taken from sleep, the 
image of death 80 , is added to the waking hours, but also in regard 
of longevity and duration in the vulgar sense. I may say too in 
regard of spirit and vivacity, which, within the same compass of 
duration, may truly and properly be affirmed to add to man's life : 
it being manifest, that one man, by a brisker motion of his spirits 
and succession of his ideas, shall live more in one hour than an- 
other in two : and that the quantity of life is to be estimated, not 
merely from the duration, but also from the intenseness of living. 
Which intense living, or, if I may so say, lively life, is not more 
promoted by early hours as a regimen, than by tar-water as a cor- 
dial j which acts, not only as a slow medicine, but hath also an 
immediate and cheerful effect on the spirits (sect. 66). 

no. It must be owned, the light attracted, secreted, and de- 
tained in tar (sect. 8, 29, 40), and afterwards drawn off in its finest 
balsamic particles, by the gentle menstruum of cold water, is not 
a violent and sudden medicine, always to produce its effect at 
once (such, by irritating, often do more mischief than good), but 
a safe and rriild alterative, which penetrates the whole system, 
opens, heals, and strengthens the remote vessels, alters and pro- 
pels their contents, and enters the minutest capillaries, and can- 
not therefore, otherwise than by degrees and in time, work a radi- 
cal cure of chronic distempers. It gives nevertheless speedy relief 
in most cases, as I have found by myself and many others. I have 

so o ou ii ^ *r L With lips of lurid blue ; 

80 So Shelley in Queen Mao ,, t t 

J ^ The other, rosy as the morn 

' How wonderful is Death, When throned on ocean's wave, 

Death and his brother Sleep ! It blushes o'er the world : 

One, pale as yonder waning moon, Yet both so passing wonderful!' 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 405 

been surprised to see persons fallen away and languishing under 
a bad digestion, after a few weeks recover a good stomach, and 
with it flesh and strength, so as to seem renewed, by the drinking 
of tar-water. The strength and quantity of this water to be taken 
by each individual person is best determined from experience. 
And as for the time of taking, I never knew any evil ensue from 
its being continued ever so long; but, on the contrary, many and 
great advantages, which sometimes would not perhaps begin to 
shew themselves till it had been taken two or three months. 

in. We learn from Pliny that in the first ferment of new wine 
or mustum^ the ancients were wont to sprinkle it with powdered 
resin, which gave it a certain sprightliness, ^u^edam saporls acumma. 
This was esteemed a great improver of its odour and taste, and 
was, I doubt not, of its salubrity also. The brown old resin, that 
is to say hardened tar, as being more easily pulverized and sifted, 
was most in request for this purpose. They used likewise to sea- 
son their wine vessels with pitch or resin. And I make no doubt 
that if our vintners would contrive to medicate their wines with 
the same ingredients, they might improve and preserve them with 
less trouble and expense to themselves, and less danger to others. 
He that would know more particulars of this matter may consult 
Pliny and Columella 81 . I shall only add, that I doubt not a similar 
improvement may be made of malt liquor. 

1 12. The prjrwr) of Theophrastus and resin* of Pliny are some- 
times used in a general sense, to signify all sorts of oily viscid 
exudations from plants or trees. The crude watery juice that 
riseth early in the spring is gradually ripened and inspissated by 
the solar heat, becoming in orderly succession with the seasons an 
oil, a balsam, and at last a resin. And it is observed by chemists 
that turpentine dissolved over a gentle fire is, by the constant 
operation of heat, successively transformed into oil, balsam, pitch, 
and hard friable resin, which will incorporate with oil or rectified 
spirit, but not with water. 

113. Sir John Floyer 82 remarks, that we want a method for the 

pl See Pliny Hist Nat. lib. XIV. c. 25 ; cold bath again into fashion, and ' rode his 

and Columella De Re Rmtica, lib. XII. c. hobby so hard as to attribute the prevalence 

' of rickets in England, at the time he wrote 

Sir John Floyer (1649-1 734>, an cmi- (about 1700), to the abandonment of total 

nent English physician. See his Touchstone immersion in baptism/ See Macpnerson s 

of Medicines (1687), pt. III. He brought the Batbs and Wells of Europe, p. 53. 

406 Siris : a Chain of 

use of turpentine : and again, he who shall hit, saith he, on the 
pleasantest method of giving turpentine will do great cures in the 
gout, stone, catarrhs, dropsies, and cold scurvies, rheumatisms, 
ulcers, and obstructions of the glands. Lastly, he subjoins, that, 
for the use of altering and amending the juices and fibres, it must 
be given frequently, and in such small quantities at a time, and 
in so commodious a manner, as will agree best with the stomach 
(sect. 9), stay longest in the body, and not purge itself off; for 
large doses (saith he) go through too quick, and besides offend the 
head. Now, the infusion of tar or turpentine in cold water seems 
to supply the very method that was wanted, as it leaves the more 
unctuous and gross parts behind (sect. 47), which might offend 
the stomach, intestines, and head; and, as it may be easily taken, 
and as often, and in such quantity and such degree of strength, as 
suits the case of the patient. Nor should it seem that the fine 
spirit and volatile oil, obtained by infusion of tar (sect. 7, 42, 58), 
is inferior to that of turpentine, to which it superadds the virtue 
of wood soot/ which is known to be very great with respect to the 
head and nerves; and this appears evident from the manner of 
obtaining tar (sect. 13). And as the fine volatile parts of tar or 
turpentine are drawn off" by infusion in cold water, and easily con- 
veyed throughout the whole system of the human body ; so it should 
seem the same method may be used with all sorts of balsams or 
resins whatsoever, as the readiest, easiest, and most inoffensive, 
as well as in many cases the most effectual way of obtaining and 
imparting their virtues. 

1 14. After having said so much of the uses of tar, I must fur- 
ther add that, being rubbed on them, it is an excellent preservative 
of the teeth and gums: [ 8 - 3 that it sweetens the breath, and] that 
it clears and strengthens the voice. And, as its effects are various 
and useful, so there is nothing to be feared from the operation of 
an alterative so mild and friendly to nature. It was a wise maxim 
of certain ancient philosophers, that diseases ought not to be irri- 
tated by medicines (sect. 103). But no medicine disturbs the 
animal economy less than this, which, if I may trust my own ex- 
perience, never produces any disorder in a patient when rightly 

115. I knew indeed a person who took a large glass of tar- water 

83 Added in second edition. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 407 

just before breakfast/ which gave him an invincible nausea and 
disgust, although he had before received the greatest benefit from 
it. But, if the tar-water be taken and made in the manner pre- 
scribed at the beginning of this Essay, it will, if I mistake not, 
have enough of the salt to be useful, and little enough of the oil to 
be inoffensive. [ 84 1 mean my own manner of making it, and not 
the American 85 , which makes it sometimes too 'strong and some- 
times too weak ; which tar-water, however it might serve as there 
used, merely for a preservative against the small-pox, yet may not 
be fit to use in all those various cases wherein I have found tar- 
water so successful.] Persons more delicate than ordinary may 
render it palatable, by mixing a drop of the chemical oil of nut- 
megs, or a spoonful of mountain-wine in each glass. It may not 
be amiss to observe that I have known some, whose nice stomachs 
could not bear it in the morning, take it at night going to bed 
without any inconvenience [ b6 and that with some it agrees best 
warm, with others cold], [ 8 "For outward washes and fomen- 
tations, it may be made stronger, as by pouring on warm water ; 
also for brute beasts, as horses, in whose disorders I have found it 
very useful, 1 believe more so than that bituminous substance 
called Barbadoes tar.] 

1 1 6. In very dangerous and acute cases much may be taken and 
often; as far as the stomach can bear. But in chronical cases, 
about half a pint night and morning may suffice [ 88 or, in case so 
large a dose should prove disagreeable, half the quantity may be 
taken at four times, to wit, in the morning early, at night going to 
bed, and about two hours after dinner and breakfast], A medicine 
of so great virtue in so many different disorders, and especially in 
that grand enemy the fever, must needs be a benefit to mankind 
in general. There are nevertheless three sorts of people to whom 
I would peculiarly recommend it : seafaring persons, ladies, and 
men of studious and sedentary lives. 

117. To sailors and all seafaring persons, who are subject to 
scorbutic disorders and putrid fevers, especially in long southern 
voyages, 1 am persuaded this tar-water would be beneficial. And 
this may deserve particular notice in the present course of marine 

84 Added in second edition. w Added in the later editions. 

85 cf. sect. i. 88 Added in second edition. 

86 Omitted in the later editions. 

408 Siris : a Chain of 

expeditions, when so many of our countrymen have perished by 
such distempers, contracted at sea and in foreign climates. Which, 
it is probable, might have been prevented by the copious use of 

118. This same water will also give charitable relief to the 
ladies (sect. 103), who often want it more than the parish poor, 
being many of them never able to make a good meal, and sitting 
pale, puny, and forbidden like ghosts, at their own table, victims 
of vapours and indigestion. 

119. Studious persons also, pent up in narrow holes, breathing 
bad air, and stooping over their books, are much to be pitied. As 
they are debarred the free use of air and exercise, this I will 
venture to recommend as the best succedaneum to both. Though 
it were to be wished that modern scholars would, like the ancients, 
meditate and converse more in walks and gardens and open air, 
which upon the whole would perhaps be no hinderance to their 
learning, and a great advantage to their health. My own seden- 
tary course of life had long since thrown me into an ill habit, 
attended with many ailments, particularly a nervous colic, which 
rendered my life a burthen, and the more so, because my pains 
were exasperated by exercise. But, since the use of tar-water, 
I find, though not a perfect recovery from my old and rooted 
illness, yet such a gradual return of health and ease, that I esteem 
my having taken this medicine the greatest of all temporal 
blessings, and am convinced that, under Providence, I owe my 
life to it. 

1 20. 89 In the distilling of turpentine and other balsams by a 
gentle heat, it hath been observed that there riseth first an acid 
spirit (sect. 7) that will mix with water; which spirit, except the 
fire be very gentle, is lost. This grateful acid spirit that first 
comes over is, as a learned chemist and physician 90 informs us, 
highly refrigeratory, diuretic, sudorific, balsamic, or preservative 

89 Having, in the preceding sections, de- 120 156); and of Air, that common 

duced the catholic efficacy of Tar-water, seminary of all life giving elements (sect. 

Berkeley, in sect. 120 230, speculates on 137 151); to Pure -/Ether, Light, or Vital 

the physical explanation of its medicinal Fire (sect. 152 230) according to him, 

properties. The speculation carries him the ultimate physical or instrumental cause 

through the theory of Acids and Salts (sect. of motion. 90 Boerhaave. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 409 

from putrefaction, excellent in nephritic cases, and for quenching 
thirst all which virtues are contained in the cold infusion which 
draws forth from tar only its fine flower or quintessence, if I may 
so say, or the native vegetable spirit, together with a little 
volatile oil. 

121. The distinguishing principle of all vegetables that 
whereon their peculiar smell, taste, and specific properties depend 
seems to be some extremely fine and subtle spirit, whose imme- 
diate vehicle is an exceeding thin volatile oil; which is itself 
detained in a grosser and more viscid resin or balsam, lodged in 
proper cells in the bark and seeds, and most abounding in autumn 
or winter, after the crude juices have been thoroughly concocted, 
ripened, and impregnated with solar light. The spirit itself is 
by some supposed to be an oil highly subtilized, so as to mix with 
water. But such volatile oil is not the spirit, but only its vehicle. 
Since aromatic oils being long exposed to air will lose their 
specific smell and taste, which fly ofF with the spirit or vegetable 
salt, without any sensible diminution of the oil. 

122. Those volatile salts that are set free and raised by a gentle 
heat may justly be supposed essential (sect. 8), and to have pre- 
existed in the vegetable ; whereas the lixivial fixed salts, obtained 
by the incineration of the subject, whose natural constituent parts 
have been altered or destroyed by the extreme force of fire, are, by 
later chemists, upon very good grounds, supposed not to have pre- 
existed therein all such salts appearing, from the experiments of 
Signor Redi 91 , not to preserve the virtues of the respective vege- 
table subjects; and to be alike purgative and in an equal degree, 
whatsoever may be the shape of their points, whether sharp or 
obtuse. But, although fixed or lixivial salts may not contain the 
original properties of the subject, yet volatile salts, raised by a 
slight heat from vegetables, are allowed to preserve their native 
virtues : and such salts are readily imbibed by water. 

123. The most volatile of the salts, and the most attenuated 
part of the oil may be supposed the first and readiest to im- 
pregnate a cold infusion (sect, i, 7). And this will assist us to 
account for the virtues of tar- water. That volatile acid in vege- 

91 Francesco Redi (1626 1697), an emi- Natnralia (1675). His collected works 
nent Italian naturalist and poet a member occupy seven volumes, 
of the Delia Crusca. See his Experimenta 

410 Siris : a Chain of 

tables, which resists putrefaction and is their great preservative, is 
detained in a subtle oil, miscible with water ; which oil is itself 
imprisoned in the resin or grosser part of the tar, from which it is 
easily set free and obtained pure by cold water. 

124. The mild native acids are observed more kindly to work 
upon, and more thoroughly to dissolve metallic bodies, than the 
strongest acid spirits produced by a vehement fire ; and it may be 
suspected they have the same advantage as a medicine. And, as 
no acid, by the observation of some of the best chemists, can be 
obtained from the substance of animals thoroughly assimilated, it 
should follow that the acids received into a healthy body must be 
quite subdued and changed by the vital powers : but it is easier 
to subdue and assimilate the gentler than the stronger acids 
(sect. 48). 

125. I am very sensible that on such subjects arguments fall 
short of evidence 9 ' 2 : and that mine fall short even of what they 
might have been if I enjoyed better health, or those opportunities 
of a learned commerce from which I am cut off in this remote 
corner. I shall nevertheless go on as I have begun, and proceed, 
by reason, by conjecture, and by authority, to cast the best light I 
can on the obscure paths that lie in my way. 

126. 93 Sir Isaac Newton $ 4 , Boerhaave, and Homberg 9 5 , are 
all agreed that the Acid is a fine subtle substance, pervading the 
whole terraqueous globe ; which produceth divers kinds of bodies, 
as it is united to different subjects. This, according to Homberg, 

92 Berkeley's critics complained of his de- to the Duke of Orleans born in Java. His 
fective standard of inductive proof, in deal- writings consist of communications to the 
ing with the experiments from which he French Academy, whose Memotres contain 
infers the catholicity of Tar-water as a thirty-eight contributions (1699 1714) by 
medicine. M. Homberg. These relate almost exclusively 

93 Sect. 126 136 treat of the theory of to chemical questions, including several on 
acids, salts, and alkalies, according to New- the theory of acids and salts, and on vege- 
ton, Boerhaave, and Homberg. table physiology. The Histoire de rAcadt- 

04 See Newton's tract of about two pages, mie (1715) contains an Eloge on Homberg. 

De Natura Acidorum, published apparently In Kopp's Gescbichte der Chemie we have 

about 1692. It was followed by another some account of him. Berkeley seems to 

equally brief, entitled Cogitaliones Varia, have derived many of his chemical notions 

among which are suggestions on chemical from Homberg, who was a skilful experi- 

subjects. Some of these reappear in the menter and good observer, but his inferences 

Queries at the end of his Optics. These were often absurd. He held the old view 

brief tracts contain nearly all that Newton of the tria prima salt, sulphur, and mer- 

published relating to chemistry. cury of which, in different proportions, all 

95 William Homberg (1652 1715), an material things were supposed to consist, 
eminent French chemist, and first physician 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 411 

is the pure salt, salt the principle, in itself similar and uniform, 
but never found alone. And although this principle be called the 
salt of the earth, yet it should seem it may more properly be 
called the salt of the air, since earth turned up and lying fallow 
receives it from the air. And it should seem that this is the great 
principle of vegetation, derived into the earth from all sorts of 
manures, as well as from the air. The acid is allowed to be the 
cause of fermentation in all fermented liquors. Why, therefore, 
may it not be supposed to ferment the earth, and to constitute 
that fine penetrating principle, which introduces and assimilates 
the food of plants, and is so fugitive as to escape all the filtrations 
and perquisitions of the most nice observers ? 

137. It is the doctrine of Sir Isaac Newton and Monsieur 
Homberg that, as the watery acid is that which renders salt 
soluble in water, so it is that same which joined to the earthy part 
makes it a salt. Let it therefore be considered that the organs of 
plants are tubes (sect. 30, 31, 35) the filling, unfolding, and dis- 
tending whereof, by liquors, doth constitute what is> called the 
vegetation or growth of the plant. But earth itself is not soluble 
in water, so as to form one vegetable fluid therewith. Therefore 
the particles of earth must be joined with a watery acid ; that is, 
they must become salts, in order to dissolve in water ; that so, in 
the form of a vegetable juice, they may pass through the strainers 
and tubes of the root into the body of the plant, swelling and 
distending its parts and organs, that is, increasing its bulk. 
Therefore the vegetable matter of the earth is in effect earth 
changed into salt. And to render earth fertile is to cause many of 
its particles to assume a saline form. 

128. Hence it is observed, there are more salts in the root than 
in the bark, more salts in vegetables during the spring than in the 
autumn or winter ; the crude saline juices being in the summer 
months partly evaporated, and partly ripened, by the action and 
mixture of light. Hence also it appears why the dividing of 
earth, so as to enlarge its surface, whereby it may admit more acid 
from the air, is of such use in promoting vegetation : and why 
ashes, lime, and burnt clay are found so profitable manures fire 
being in reality the acid, as is proved in the sequel (sect. 302). 
Marls also and shells are useful, forasmuch as those alkaline bodies 
attract the acid, and raise an effervescence with it, thereby pro- 

412 Siris : a Chain of 

moting a fermentation in the glebe. The excrements of animals 
and putrid vegetables do in like manner contribute to vegetation, 
by increasing the salts of the earth. And where fallows are well 
broken, and lie long to receive the acid of the air into all their 
parts ; this alone will be sufficient to change many terrene par- 
ticles into salts, and consequently render them soluble in water, 
and therefore a fit aliment for vegetables. 

129. The acid, saith Homberg, is always joined to some sulphur, 
which determines it to this or that species, producing different 
salts, as it is the vegetable, bituminous, or metallic sulphur. Even 
the alkaline, whether volatile or lixivial salts, are supposed to be 
nothing but this same acid strictly detained by oil and earth, in 
spite of the extreme force of fire, which lodgeth in them, without 
being able to dislodge some remains of the acid. 

130. Salts, according to Sir Isaac Newton, are dry earth and 
watery acid united by attraction, the acid rendering them soluble 
in water (sect. 127). He supposeth the watery acid to flow round 
the terrestrial part, as the ocean doth round the earth, being 
attracted thereby ; and compares each particle of salt to a chaos, 
whereof the innermost part is hard and earthy, but the surface soft 
and watery. Whatever attracts and is attracted most strongly is 
an acid in his sense. 

131. It seems impossible to determine the figures of particular 
salts. All acid solvents, together with the dissolved bodies, are 
apt to shoot into certain figures. And the figures in which the 
fossil salts crystallize have been supposed the proper natural shapes 
of them and their acids. But Homberg hath clearly shewed the 
contrary : forasmuch as the same acid dissolving different bodies 
assumes different shapes. Spirit of nitre, for instance, having 
dissolved copper, shoots into hexagonal crystals ; the same having 
dissolved iron, shoots into irregular squares; and again, having 
dissolved silver, forms thin crystals of a triangular figure. 

132. Homberg, nevertheless, holds in general, that acids are 
shaped like daggers, and alkalies like sheaths : and that, moving 
in the same liquor, the daggers run into the sheaths fitted to 
receive them with such violence as to raise that effervescence 
observed in the mixture of acids and alkalies. But it seems 
very difficult to conceive how or why the mere configuration 
of daggers and sheaths floating in the same liquor should cause 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 413 

the former to rush with such vehemence, and direct their points 
so aptly into the latter, any more than a parcel of spigots and 
fossets floating together in the same water should rush one 
into the other. 

133. It should seem rather that the vehement attraction which 
Sir Isaac Newton attributes to all acids, whereby he supposeth 
them to rush towards, penetrate, shake, and divide the most solid 
bodies, and to ferment the liquid of vegetables, could better 
account for this phenomenon. It is in this attraction that Sir 
Isaac placeth all their activity : and indeed it should seem, the 
figures of salts were not of such efficacy in producing their effects, 
as the strong active powers whereby they are agitated and do 
agitate other bodies. Especially if it be true (what was before 
remarked) that lixivious salts are alike purgative, whatever may 
be the shape of their angles, whether more or less acute or 

134. Sir Isaac Newton accounts for the watery acid's making 
earthy corpuscles soluble in water, by supposing the ^acid to be 
a mean between earth and water, its particles greater than those 
of water, and less than those of earth, and strongly to attract both. 
But perhaps there is no necessary reason for supposing the parts 
of the acid grosser than the parts of water, in order to produce 
this effect; may not this as well be accounted for, by giving them 
only a strong attraction or cohesion with the bodies to which they 
are joined ? 

135. The acid spirit or salt, that mighty instrument in the hand 
of nature, residing in the air, and diffused throughout that whole 
element, is discernible also in many parts of the earth, particularly 
in fossils, such as sulphur, vitriol, and alum. It was already 
observed, from Homberg, that this acid is never found pure, but 
hath always sulphur joined with it, and is classed by the difference 
of its sulphurs, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal. 

136. Salts are vulgarly reckoned the most active of chemical 
principles. But Homberg derives all their activity from the 
sulphurs joined with them. From which also, as hath been said, 
he derives all their kinds and differences (sect. 1 29). Salt, water, 
oil, and earth seem to be originally the same in all vegetables. 
All the difference, according to the chemists 96 ,ariseth from a spirit 

96 These chemists, here spoken of as believing in an arcbaus, were the followers of 

414 Sir is : a Chain of 

residing in the oil, called the rector or archaus. This is otherwise 
called by chemists ens primum, or the native spirit , whereon depend, 
and wherein are contained, the peculiar flavour and odour, the 
specific qualities and virtues, of the plant. 

137. These native spirits or vegetable souls are all breathed 
or exhaled into the Air^7 5 which seems the receptacle as well as 
source of all sublunary forms, the great mass or chaos which 
imparts and receives them. The air or atmosphere that surrounds 
our earth contains a mixture of all the active volatile parts of 
the whole habitable world, that is, of all vegetables, minerals, 
and animals. Whatever perspires, corrupts, or exhales, impreg- 
nates the air ; which, being acted upon by the solar fire, produceth 
within itself all sorts of chemical operations, dispensing again 
those salts and spirits in new generations, which it had received 
from putrefactions. 

138. The perpetual oscillations of this elastic and restless 
element operate without ceasing on all things that have life, 
whether animal or vegetable, keeping their fibres, vessels, and 
fluids in a motion, always changing ; as heat, cold, moisture, 
dryness, and other causes alter the elasticity of the air : which 
accounts, it must be owned, for many effects. But there are 
many more which must be derived from other principles or qualities 
in the air. Thus iron and copper are corroded and gather rust 
in the air, and bodies of all sorts are dissolved or corrupted, which 
sheweth an acid to abound and diffuse itself throughout the air. 

139. By this same air fire is kindled, the lamp of life preserved, 
respiration, digestion, nutrition, the pulse of the heart, and motion 
of all the muscles seem to be performed. Air therefore is a 
general agent, not only exerting its own, but calling forth the 
qualities or powers of all other bodies, by a division, comminu- 
tion, and agitation of their particles, causing them to fly off and 
become volatile and active. 

140. Nothing ferments, vegetates, or putrifies without air, which 

Paracelsus. The arcbatus of Paracelsus plates Air as the receptacle of the Acid 

seems to have been a spiritual (not spiritu- or vegetable soul in which the virtue of tar- 

ous) being. Berkeley regards it here as the water consists. The now current chemistry 

latter. of the atmosphere was then unknown. 
OT In sect. 135 152, Berkeley contem- 


Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 415 

operates with all the virtues of the bodies included in it ; that is, 
of all nature ; there being no drug, salutary or poisonous, whose 
virtues are not breathed into the air. The air therefore is an 
active mass of numberless different principles, the general source 
of corruption and generation ; on one hand dividing, abrading, 
and carrying off the particles of bodies, that is, corrupting or 
dissolving them ; on the other, producing new 'ones into being ; 
destroying and bestowing forms without intermission. 

141. The seeds of things seem to lie latent in the air, ready 
to appear and produce their kind, whenever they light on a proper 
matrix. The extremely small seeds of fern, mosses, mushrooms, 
and some other plants are concealed and wafted about in the 
air, every part whereof seems replete with seeds of one kind 
or other. The whole atmosphere seems alive. There is every- 
where acid to corrode, and seed to engender. Iron will rust, 
and mould will grow in all places. Virgin earth becomes fertile, 
crops of new plants ever and anon shew themselves j all which 
demonstrates the air to be a common seminary and receptacle 
of all vivifying principles. 

142. Air may also be said to be the seminary of minerals and 
metals, as it is of vegetables. Mr. Boyle 9 8 informs us that the 
exhausted ores of tin and iron being exposed to the air become 
again impregnated with metal, and that ore of alum having lost 
its salt, recovers it after the same manner. And numberless 
instances there are of salts produced by the air; that vast collection 
or treasury of active principles, from which all sublunary bodies 
seem to derive their forms, and on which animals depend for their 
life and breath. 

143. That there is some latent vivifying spirit dispersed 
throughout the air common experience sheweth; insomuch as it 
is necessary both to vegetables and animals (sect. 138, 139), 
whether terrestrial or aquatic, neither beasts, insects, birds, nor 
fishes being able to subsist without air. Nor doth all air suffice, 
there being some quality or ingredient of which when air is 

98 In his Observations about the growth of philosopher, chemist, and theologian, one 

Metals in tbeir ore, exposed to the air. See of the founders of the Royal Society, and 

Works,vo\. III. pp. 459 462. Robert Boyle founder of the Boyle Lectures.' His Life 

(16261692), another illustrious Irishman, and Works, edited by Dr. Birch, appeared 

frequently referred to by Berkeley natural in five vols. (1744)- 

4i 6 Siris : a Chain of 

deprived it becometh unfit to maintain either life or flame. And 
this even though the air should retain its elasticity ; which, by the 
bye, is an argument that air doth not act only as an antagonist 
to the intercostal muscles. It hath both that and many other 
uses. It gives and preserves a proper tone to the vessels: this 
elastic fluid promotes all secretions : its oscillations keep every 
part in motion : k pervades and actuates the whole animal system, 
producing great variety of effects, and even opposite in different 
parts, cooling at the same time and heating, distending and con- 
tracting, coagulating and resolving, giving and taking, sustaining 
life and impairing it, pressing without and expanding within, 
abrading some parts, at the same time insinuating and supplying 
others, producing various vibrations in the fibres and ferments 
in the fluids j all which must needs ensue from such a subtle, 
active, heterogeneous, and elastic fluid. 

144. But there is, as we before observed, some one quality or 
ingredient in the air, on which life more immediately and prin- 
cipally depends. What that is, though men are not agreed, yet 
it is agreed it must be the same thing that supports the vital 
and the common flame ; it being found that when air, by often 
breathing in it, is become unfit for the one, it will no longer 
serve for the other. The like is observable in poisonous damps 
or steams, wherein flame cannot be kindled, as is evident in the 
Grotto del Cane 99 near Naples. And here it occurs, to recommend 
the plunging them in cold water, as an experiment to be tried 
on persons affected by breathing a poisonous vapour in old vaults, 
mines, deep holes, or cavities under ground : which, I am apt 
to think, might save the lives of several, by what I have seen 
practised on a dog convulsed, and in all appearance dead, but 
instantly reviving on being taken out of the above-mentioned 
Grotto, and thrown into a lake adjacent. 

145. Air, the general menstruum and seminary, seemeth to 
be only an aggregate of the volatile parts of all natural beings, 
which, variously combined and agitated, produce many various 
effects. Small particles in a near and close situation strongly 
act upon each other, attracting, repelling, vibrating. Hence 

99 The celebrated Grotta del Cane is so it. It is described by Pliny, and seems to 
charged with carbonic acid gas that light have been visited by Berkeley in his Italian 
and animal life are speedily extinguished in tour. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 417 

divers fermentations, and all the variety of meteors, tempests, 
and concussions both of earth and firmament. Nor is the micro- 
cosm less affected thereby. Being pent up in the viscera, vessels, 
and membranes of the body, by its salts, sulphurs, and elastic 
power, it engenders cholics, spasms, hysteric disorders, and other 

146. The specific quality of air is taken to be permanent 
elasticity. Mr. Boyle is expressly of this opinion. And yet 
whether there be any such thing as permanently elastic air may 
be doubted, there being many things which seem to rob the air 
of this quality, or at least lessen and suspend its exertion. The 
salts and sulphurs, for instance, that float in the air abate much 
of its elasticity by their attraction. 

147. Upon the whole, it is manifest that air is no distinct 
element, but a mass or mixture of things the most heterogeneous 
and even opposite to each other (sect. 137, 145), which become 
air by acquiring an elasticity and volatility from the attraction of 
some active subtle substance whether it be called fire 5> sether, light, 
or the vital spirit of the world ; in like manner as the particles 
of antimony, of themselves not volatile, are carried off in sub- 
limation, and rendered volatile by cohering with the particles 
of sal ammoniac. But action and reaction being equal, the spring 
of this ethereal spirit is diminished by being imparted. Its velocity 
and subtlety are also less from its being mixed with grosser 
particles. Hence sound moves slower than light, as mud than 

148. Whether air be only freed and fixed, or generated and de- 
stroyed, it is certain that air begins and ceases to exert or shew 
itself. Much by experiments seems to be generated, not only from 
animals, fruits, and vegetables, but also from hard bodies. And it 
is observed by Sir Isaac Newton, that air produced from hard 
bodies is most elastic. The transmutation of elements, each into 
other, hath been anciently held 1 . In Plutarch we find it was the 

1 For Heraclitus, see Ps. -Plutarch, De and devoted much time to an investigation of 

Placit. Philos. lib. I. c. 3. Alchemy, or the its processes. Leibnitz, in his youth, was secre- 

ancient hypothesis that the elements of mat- tary to a society of Rosicrucians at Nurem- 

ter may be transubstantiated into an ultimate berg, who practised alchemy. Alchemist 

element thus implying that gold and silver speculation was encouraged by Boyle and 

may be produced from the baser metals, and Locke. And the most advanced science of 

encouraging the search for a universal medi- our day has not abandoned the idea of this 

cine W as a favourite speculation even in scientific transubstantiation. 
Berkeley's time. Newton believed in alchemy, 


4i8 Sir is : a Chain of 

opinion of Heraclitus, that the death of fire was a birth to air, and 
the death of air a birth to water. This opinion is also maintained 
by Sir Isaac Newton. Though it may be questioned, whether 
what is thought a change be not only a disguise. 

149. Fire seems the most elastic and expansive of all bodies. 
It communicates this quality to moist vapours and dry exhalations, 
when it heats and f agitates their parts, cohering closely with them, 
overcoming their former mutual attraction, and causing them, 
instead thereof, reciprocally to repel each other, and fly asunder, 
with a force proportionable to that wherewith they had cohered. 

150. Therefore in air we may conceive two parts; the one more 
gross, which was raised and carried off from the bodies of this ter- 
raqueous mass ; the other a fine subtle spirit, by means whereof the 
former is rendered volatile and elastic. Together they compose 
a medium whose elasticity is less than that of pure aether, fire, or 
spirit, in proportion to the quantity of salts, vapours, and hetero- 
geneous particles contained therein. Hence it follows that there 
is no such thing as the pure simple element of air. It follows also 
that on the highest mountains air should be more rare in propor- 
tion to the vulgar rule, of the spaces being reciprocally as the 
pressures: and so in fact it is said to have been found by the 
gentlemen of the French Academy of Sciences. 

151. ^Ether, fire, or spirit, being attracted and clogged by hete- 
rogeneous particles, becometh less active; and the particles co- 
hering with those of aether become more active than before. Air 
therefore is a mass of various particles, abraded and sublimated 
from wet and dry bodies of all sorts, cohering with particles of 
aether; the whole permeated by pure aether, or light, or fire: for 
these words are used promiscuously by ancient philosophers. 

152. This jEther or pure invisible Fire 2 , the most subtle and 

2 We here pass (sect. 152230) to a tion is to be hyper-mechanically accounted for 
higher link in the Chain ^Ether or invisible by animated fire, was an alternative contro- 
Fire ; which, with Berkeley, connects all verted in Berkeley's generation. Bacon, in 
things, and is their ultimate physical expla- his Novum Organum, had concluded that 
nationbeing the vital spirit of the universe, heat and other sensible effects attributed to 
corresponding to the animal spirit in man. fire were due to modifications of motion in 
Fire has always been a mystery. It evades the particles of bodies a doctrine substan- 
sense-perceplion ; yet it is connected with tially accepted by Boyle and Newton, and in 
and seems to animate the phenomena of other current physical science. On the other 
sense. Hence the supremacy attributed to it hand, Berkeley's notion of animated, ail- 
by the ancients. Whether fire is merely pervading fire, as the original physical cause 
mechanically resolvable into motion, or mo- or instrument, to which, under Supreme 

Philosophical Reflexions anct Inquiries, &c. 419 

elastic of all bodies, seems to pervade and expand itself through- 
out the whole universe. If air be the immediate agent or instru- 
ment in natural things, it is the pure invisible fire that is the first 
natural mover or spring from whence the air derives its power 
(sect. 139, 149, 151). This mighty agent is everywhere at hand, 
ready to break forth into action, if not restrained and governed 
with the greatest wisdom. Being always restless and in motion, 
it actuates and enlivens the whole visible mass, is equally fitted 
to produce and to destroy, distinguishes the various stages of 
nature, and keeps up the perpetual round of generations and cor- 
ruptions, pregnant with forms which it constantly sends forth and 
rcsorbs. So quick in its motions, so subtle and penetrating in its 
nature, so extensive in its effects, it seemeth no other than the 
Vegetative Soul or Vital Spirit of the World. 

153. 3 The animal spirit in man is the instrumental or physical 
cause both of sense and motion. To suppose sense in the world 
would be gross and unwarranted. But locomotive faculties 4 are 
evident in all its parts. The Pythagoreans, Platonists, and Stoics 
held the world to be an animal ; though some of them have chosen 
to consider it as a vegetable 5 . However, the phenomena and 
effects do plainly shew there is a Spirit that moves, and a Mind or 
Providence that presides. This Providence, Plutarch 5 saith, was 
thought to be in regard to the world what the 3oul is in regard to 

154. The order and course of things, and the experiments we 
daily make, shew there is a Mind that governs and actuates this 

Mind, all sensible changes are due, and by 3 This and the three next sections, as 

which the sensible universe is concatenated, well as sect. 160, 161, interpolate Berkeley's 

was partly countenanced among his contem- spiritual philosophy of Power, so prominent 

poraries by Homberg and Boerhaave. Berke- in the latter part of Siris, and suggest the 

ley and his theory of fire are referred to in ancient doctrine of anima mundi, appa- 

Richard Barton's A nalogy of Divine Wisdom rently to correct any tendency to suppose 

(Dublin, 2nd ed. 1750). ' Fire,' we are there Fire per se the supreme and ultimate Cause, 

told, ' is the universal fountain of life, order, * Cf sect. 230. 

distinction, stability, beauty of the universe. 5 Cf. sect. 166, 172, 273 79, for the 

It is not only in the sun and other heavenly theory that the sensible universe is ani- 

bodies, but it makes part of every lump of mated, and not the mechanical result of 

matter upon our globe. ... So quick in its inanimate motive force. The notion of an 

motion, so subtle and penetrating in its all-pervading vitality and reason, but not of 

nature, so extensive in its effects, it seemeth absolute creation, underlies ancient physical 

no other than the Vegetative Soul and Vital speculation. See Plato, Timieus, pp. 29, 30 ; 

Spirit of the World' (p. 63). See also Diog. Laert.lib. VII.; Cicero, De Nat. Dear. 

[Casway's?] Metaphysical Essay (1748), lib. II. c. n; also Ps. -Plutarch, De Placit. 

pp. 32, &c. Pbilos. lib. V. c. 20. 

E C 2, 

420 Siris : a Chain of 

mundane system, as the proper real agent and cause; and that 
the inferior instrumental cause is pure aether, fire, or the substance 
of light (sect. 29, 37, [36, 149) which is applied and determined 
by an Infinite Mind in the macrocosm or universe, with unlimited 
power, and according to stated rules as it is in the microcosm 
with limited power and skill by the human mind. We have no 
proof, either from, experiment or reason, of any other agent or 
efficient cause than Mind or Spirit 6 . When, therefore, we speak 
of corporeal agents or corporeal causes, this is to be understood in 
a different, subordinate, and improper sense. 

155. The principles whereof a thing is compounded, the instru- 
ment used in its production, and the end for which it was intended, 
are all in vulgar use termed causes^ though none of them be, strictly 
speaking, agent or efficient. There is not any proof that an ex- 
tended corporeal or mechanical cause doth really and properly act, 
even motion itself being in truth a passion 7. Therefore, though 
we speak of this fiery substance as acting, yet it is to be under- 
stood only as a mean or instrument, which indeed is the case of 
all mechanical causes whatsoever. They are, nevertheless, some- 
times termed agents and causes, although they are by no means 
active in a strict and proper signification. When therefore force, 
power, virtue, or action is mentioned as subsisting in an extended 
and corporeal or mechanical being, this is not to be taken in a 
true, genuine, and real, but only in a gross and popular sense, 
which sticks in appearances, and doth not analyze things to their 
first principles. In compliance with established language and the 
use of the world, we must employ the popular current phrase. But 
then in regard to truth we ought to distinguish its meaning. It 
may suffice to have made this declaration once for all, in order to 
avoid mistakes. 

156. The calidum innatum, the vital flame, or animal spirit in 
man, is supposed the cause of all motions in the several parts of 
his body, whether voluntary or natural. That is, it is accounted 
the instrument, by means whereof the mind exerts and manifests 
herself in the motions of the body. In the same sense, may not 
fire be said to have force, to operate and agitate the whole system 

8 Cf. Principles of Human Knowledge, teaches that all sensible things are passive, 
sect. 26 28. and that animating Spirit is the only proper 

7 Cf. sect. 1 60 ; also De Motu, which cause. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 421 

of the world, which is held together, and informed by one pre- 
siding mind, and animated throughout by one and the same fiery 
substance as an instrumental and mechanical agent, not as a 
primary real efficient ? 

157. This pure spirit or invisible fire is ever ready to exert and 
shew itself in its effects (sect. 152), cherishing, heating, ferment- 
ing, dissolving, shining, and operating, in various manners, where 
a subject offers to employ or determine its force. It is present in 
all parts of the earth and firmament, though perhaps latent and 
unobserved, till some accident produceth it into act, and renders 
it visible in its effects. 

158. There is no effect in nature, great, marvellous, or terrible, 
but proceeds from fire, that diffused and active principle, which, at 
the same time that it shakes the earth and heavens 8 , will enter, 
divide, and dissolve the smallest, closest, and most compacted 
bodies. In remote cavities of the earth it remains quiet, till per- 
haps an accidental spark, from the collision of one 'stone against 
another, kindles an exhalation that gives birth to an earthquake 
or tempest which splits mountains or overturns cities. This same 
fire stands unseen in the focus of a burning glass, till subjects for 
it to act upon come in its way, when it is found to melt, calcine, 
or vitrify the hardest bodies. 

159. No eye could ever hitherto discern, and no sense perceive, 
the animal spirit in a human body, otherwise than from its effects. 
The same may be said of pure fire, or the spirit of the universe, 
which is perceived only by means of some other bodies, on which 
it operates, or with which it is joined. What the chemists say of 
pure acids being never found alone might as well be said of pure 
fire 9. 

160. The mind of man acts by an instrument necessarily. The 
TO T/ye/jumKou, or mind presiding in the world, acts by an instru- 
ment freely. Without instrumental and second causes, there could 
be no regular course of nature. And without a regular course, 
nature could never be understood ; mankind must always be at 
a loss, not knowing what to expect, or how to govern themselves, 

8 Cf. Hebrews XII. 26 29. intellect, which always appears in the con- 

9 The same, too, may be said of pure crete. 

422 Siris : a Chain of 

or direct their actions for the obtaining of any end. Therefore in 
the government of the world physical agents, improperly so called, 
or mechanical, or second causes, or natural causes, or instruments, 
are necessary to assist, not the governor, but the governed 10 . 

161. In the human body the mind orders and moves the limbs : 
but the animal spirit is supposed the immediate physical cause of 
their motion. So likewise in the mundane system, a mind pre- 
sides : but the immediate, mechanical, or instrumental cause, that 
moves or animates all its parts, is the pure elementary fire or 
spirit of the world. The more fine and subtle part or spirit is sup- 
posed to receive the impressions of the First Mover, and commu- 
nicate them to the grosser sensible parts of this world. Motion, 
though in metaphysical rigour and truth a passion or mere effect, 
yet in physics passeth for an action 11 . And by this action all 
effects are supposed to be produced. Hence the various commu- 
nications, determinations, accelerations of motion, constitute the 
laws of nature 1 . 

162. The pure aether or invisible fire contains parts of different 
kinds, that are impressed with different forces, or subjected to 
different laws of motion, attraction, repulsion, and expansion, and 
endued with divers distinct habitudes towards other bodies. These 
seem to constitute the many various qualities (sect. 37, 40, 44), 
virtues, flavours, odours, and colours which distinguish natural 
productions. The different modes of cohesion, attraction, repul- 
sion, and motion appear to be the source from whence specific 
properties are derived, rather than different shapes or figures. 
This, as hath been already observed 12 , seems confirmed by the ex- 
periment of fixed salts operating one way, notwithstanding the 
difference of their angles. The original particles, productive of 
odours, flavours, and other properties, as well as of colours, are, 
one may suspect, all contained and blended together in that uni- 
versal and original seminary of pure and elementary fire; from 

10 Cf. with this important parenthetical The ultimate conception is of a living and 
section, Principles of Human Knowledge, ideological, not a blindly moved universe 
sect. 60 66, in which Berkeley explains movement being the expression of a per- 
and vindicates the function of physical science, vading life and meaning.' It is taken for 
under his theory of the Sensible World. granted that Life itself is inexplicable by, 

11 Cf. sect. 155, and the De Motu, passim. and incapable of being formed from, any 
With Berkeley motion is a sensible mani- application of mechanical or chemical laws, 
festation of animated and invisible fire. u Cf. sect, 131 133. 

Philosophical Reflexions ana Inquiries, &c. 423 

which they are diversely separated and attracted, by the various 
subjects of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms; which 
thereby become classed into kinds, and endued with those distinct 
properties which continue till their several forms, or specific pro- 
portions of fire, return into the common mass/ 

163. As the soul acts immediately on pure fire, so pure fire 
operates immediately on air ; that is, the abfasions of all ter- 
restrial things being rendered volatile and elastic by fire (sect. 
149, 150, 152), and at the same time lessening the volatility and 
expansive force of the fire, whose particles they attract and adhere 
to (sect. 147), there is produced a new fluid, more volatile than 
water or earth, and more fixed than fire. Therefore, the virtues 
and operations imputed to air must be ultimately attributed to 
fire, as that which imparts activity to air itself. 

164. The element of sethereal fire or light seems to comprehend, 
in a mixed state, the seeds, the natural causes and forms (sect. 43), 
of all sublunary things. The grosser bodies separate, attract, 
and repel the several constituent particles of that heterogeneous 
element; which, being parted from the common mass, make 
distinct essences, producing and combining together such qualities 
and properties as are peculiar to the several subjects, and thence 
often extracted in essential oils or odoriferous waters, from whence 
they exhale into the open air, and return into their original 

165. Blue, red, yellow, and other colours, have been discovered 
by Sir Isaac Newton to depend on the parted rays or particles 
of light. And, in like manner, a particular odour or flavour 
seemeth to depend on peculiar particles of light or fire (sect. 40); 
as appears from heats being necessary to all vegetation what- 
soever, and from the extreme minuteness and volatility of those 
vegetable souls or forms, flying off from the subjects without any 
sensible diminution of their weight. These particles, blended in 
one common ocean, should seem to conceal the distinct forms, 
but, parted and attracted by proper subjects, disclose or produce 
them. As the particles of light, which, when separated, form 
distinct colours, being blended are lost in one uniform appearance. 

1 66. 13 Agreeably thereto an aethereal substance or fire was 

13 In sect. 166187 we have a collection Greek (sect. 166176) and Oriental (sect, 
of authorities in Ancient Philosophy 177 187) in support of the 'philosophy 


424 Sir is : a Chain of 

supposed by Heraclitus 14 to be the seed of the generation of all 
things, or that from which all things drew their original. The 
Stoics 15 also taught that all substance was originally fire, and should 
return to fire : that an active subtle fire was diffused or expanded 
throughout the whole universe; the several parts whereof were 
produced, sustained, and held together, by its force. And it was 
the opinion of the Pythagoreans, as Laertius informs us, that 
heat or fire was the principle of life, animating the whole system, 
and penetrating all the elements (sect. 153, 153). The Platonists, 
too, as well as the Pythagoreans, held fire to be the immediate 
natural agent, or animal spirit ; to cherish, to warm, to heat, 
to enlighten, to vegetate, to produce the digestions, circulations, 
secretions, and organical motions, in all living bodies, vegetable 
or animal, being effects of that element, which, as it actuates 
the macrocosm, so it animates the microcosm. In the Timaeus 16 
of Plato, there is supposed something like a net of fire and rays 
of fire in a human body. Doth not this seem to mean the animal 
spirit, flowing, or rather darting, through the nerves ? 

167. According to the Peripatetics, the form of heaven, or the 
fiery sethereal substance, contains the form of all inferior beings 
(sect. 43). It may be said to teem with forms, and impart them 
to subjects fitted to receive them. The vital force thereof in the 
Peripatetic sense is vital to all, but diversely received according 
to the diversity of the subjects. So all colours are virtually con- 
tained in the light; but their actual distinctions of blue, red, 
yellow, and the rest, depend on the difference of the objects which 
it illustrates. Aristotle, in the book De Mundo^^ supposeth a 
certain fifth essence, an ethereal nature, unchangeable and im- 
passive ; and next in order a subtle flaming substance, lighted 
up or set on fire by that sethereal and Divine nature. He sup- 
poseth, indeed, that God is in heaven, but that his power, or a 

of fire/ the doctrine that (ether or fire is Meitos des Dunlteln (1858) of Lassalle. In 

the ultimate, informing and unifying, instru- Ferrier's Lectures on Greek Philosophy (1866) 

mental cause of all natural changes. there is an interesting account of Heraclitus. 

14 Schleiermacher,Bernays, Lassalle, Zeller, 15 Berkeley seems, here and elsewhere, to 

and' others have cast fresh light on Hera- found much on Diogenes Laertius, and the 

clitus, the most grandly suggestive figure of Pseudo-Plutarch. See Zeller's Philosophic der 

the Pre-Socratic age, from whom the 'phi- Griechen, for the elemental fire, or world soul, 

losophy of fire ' descends. The Germans of the Stoics, 

have disinterred the dark philosopher, long 16 Pp. 45, 78. 

nominis umbra, in recent histories and mono- 17 See cap. 2. The tract De Mundo is 

graphs. See especially the Philosophic Hera- not now accepted as Aristotle's. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 425 

force derived from him, doth actuate and pervade the uni- 

168. If we may credit Plutarch 18 , Empedocles thought aether 
or heat to be Jupiter. ^Ether by the ancient philosophers was 
used to signify promiscuously sometimes fire and sometimes air. 
For they distinguish two sorts of air. Plato, in the Timaeus 19 , 
speaking of air, saith there are two kinds ; the one more fine and 
subtle, called aether; the other more gross, and replete with vapours. 
This aether or purer medium seems to have been the air or prin- 
ciple from which all things, according to Anaximenes, derived 
their birth, and into which they were back again resolved at their 
death. Hippocrates, in his treatise De Di*ta' 20 , speaketh of a fire 
pure and invisible ; and this fire, according to him, is that which, 
stirring and giving movement to all things, causes them to appear, 
or, as he styles it, come into evidence, that is, to exist, every one 
in its time, and according to its destiny. 

169. This pure fire, aether, or substance of light was accounted 
in itself invisible and imperceptible to all our senses, being 
perceived only by its effects, such as heat, flame, and rarefaction. 
To which we may add, that the Moderns pretend farther to have 
perceived it by weight, inasmuch as the aromatic oils which most 
abound with fire, as being the most readily and vehemently in- 
flamed, are above all others the heaviest. And by an experiment 
of Mr. Homberg's, four ounces of regulus of antimony, being 
calcined by a burning-glass for an hour together, were found to 
have imbibed and fixed seven drachms of the substance of light. 

170. Such is the rarefying and expansive force of this element, 
as to produce, in an instant of time, the greatest and most stu- 
pendous effects: a sufficient proof not only of the power of fire, 
but also of the wisdom with which it is managed, and withheld 
from bursting forth every moment to the utter ravage and de- 
struction of all things. And it is very remarkable that this same 
element, so fierce and destructive, should yet be so variously 
tempered and applied as to be withal the salutary warmth, the 

18 Ps.-Plutarch, De Placit. Pbilos. lib. I. B.C. 500 460) was discovered by the learned 
c. 3. research of Professor Bernays of Bonn, in his 

19 P. 58. Heraditea, where he traces, with acuteness, 

20 Opera, torn. I. p. 639 (ed. Leips. 1825). a series of quotations from Heraclitus, em- 
An unsuspected relation between Hippo- bedded in the text of the De Diceta. 

crates (B.C. 460 357) and Heraclitus (cir. 

426 Siris: a Chain of 

genial, cherishing, and vital flame of all living creatures. It 
is not therefore to be wondered that Aristotle 21 thought the heat 
of a living body to be somewhat Divine and celestial, derived 
from that pure aether to which he supposed the incorporeal Deity 
(yjapwrbv ei8os) to be immediately united, or on which he supposed 
it immediately to act. 

171. The Platonists held that intellect resided in soul, and 
soul in an aethereal vehicle. And that as the soul was a middle 
nature, reconciling intellect with aether, so aether was another 
middle nature, which reconciled and connected the soul with 
grosser bodies (sect. 152, 154). Galen 22 likewise taught that, 
admitting the soul to be incorporeal, it hath for its immediate 
tegument or vehicle a body of aether or fire, by the intervention 
whereof it moveth other bodies, and is mutually affected by them. 
This interior clothing was supposed to remain upon the soul, not 
only after death, but after the most perfect purgation, which, in 
length of time, according to the followers of Plato and Pythagoras, 
cleansed the'soul, 

' purumque reliquit 

/Ethereum sensum, atque aurai simplicis ignem 33 .' 

This tunicle of the soul, whether it be called pure aether, or 
luciform vehicle, or animal spirit, seemeth to be that which 
moves and acts upon the gross organs, as it is determined by 
the soul from which it immediately receives impression, and in 
which the moving force truly and properly resides. Some Moderns 
have thought fit to deride all that is said of aethereal vehicles, 
as mere jargon or words without a meaning. But they should 
have considered that all speech concerning the soul is altogether, 
or for the most part, metaphorical ; and that, agreeably thereunto, 

21 SeeDeAnim. Gener. lib. III. c. n ; also M See Opera, torn. IV. p. 470 (ed. Bas.) 
De Anima, lib. II. c. 4. Aristotle is apt to for a passage which partly corresponds to 
refer the connexion of soul and body to the this. Galen (A.D. 130 201) would be the 
universally diffused animal heat ; a notion most learned physician and one of the most 
which the Stoics carried further, in identifying voluminous writers of antiquity, if all the 
God, or the world-soul, with the vital heat. works attributed to him could be received as 
On the physics and cosmology of the Stoics, genuine. In the treatise on Hippocrates and 
see Plutarch, De Stoic. Rep. 41 ; Stob. Eel. Plato, and in other Galenic works, may be 
Pbys. I, and Diog. Laert. lib. VII.; alsoZeller. found passages on Fire not unlike that refer- 
Like Heraclitus, they regarded fire as the red to, but I have not found any exactly cor- 
universal cosmological force, in which the responding to it. Galen was a great admirer 
mundane system originated, and in which, of Hippocrates ; for whose doctrine on this 
after regular development in the ages, it is to subject, cf. sect. 1 68, 1 74, 175. 
dissolve in universal conflagration. n Virgil, JEneid VI. 746. 

Philosophical Reflexions and Inquiries, &c. 427 

Plato 24 speaketh of the mind or soul, as a driver that guides and 
governs a chariot, which is, not unfitly, styled ovy?]et6ey, a luciform 
aethereal vehicle or <?x^a terms expressive of the purity, light- 
ness, subtlety, and mobility of that fine celestial nature in which 
the soul immediately resides and operates. 

173. It was a tenet of the Stoics that the world was an animal, 
and that Providence answered to the reasonable soul in man. 
But then the Providence or mind was supposed by them to be 
immediately resident or present in fire, to dwell therein, and 
to act thereby. Briefly, they conceived God to be an intellectual 
and fiery spirit, ww^a vocpbv KOL TrvpcoSe?. Therefore, though they 
looked on fire (sect. 166) as the ro fiy^oviK.ov or governing prin- 
ciple of the world, yet it was not simply fire, but animated with 
a mind. 

173. Such are the bright and lively signatures of a Divine 
Mind, operating and displaying itself in fire and light throughout 
the world, that, as Aristotle observes, in his book De Mundo~*>^ all 
things seem full of divinities, whose apparitions on all'sides strike 
and dazzle our eyes. And it must be owned the chief philosophers 
and wise men of antiquity, how much soever they attributed to 
second causes and the force of fire, yet they supposed a Mind or 
Intellect always resident therein, active or provident, restrain- 
ing its force, and directing its operations. 

174. Thus Hippocrates, in his treatise De D/>ta 26 , speaks of 
a strong but invisible fire (sect. 168), that rules all things without 
noise. Herein, saith he, reside soul, understanding, prudence, 
growth, motion, diminution, change, sleep, and waking. This 
is what governs all things, and is never in repose. And the same 
author, in his tract De Carnlbus 27 , after a serious preface, setting 
forth that he is about to declare his own opinion, expresseth it 
in these terms: c That which we call heat, 0*pjudz>, appears to 
me something immortal, which understands all things, which sees 
and knows both what is present and what is to come/ 

175. This same heat is also what Hippocrates calls nature, the 
author of life and death, good and evil. It is farther to be noted 

24 Phadrus, p. 246. Cf. Alcipbron, Dial. St poi 6 fca\e6fjicvov Ocppbv, aOavar6v T 
VII. 16. flvai, Kal vow ir&vra, Kal &pfjv Kal &KOV- 

25 Cap. 6. fiv Kal tttivai iravra Kal rci 6vra Kal rcL 

26 Opera, torn. I. p. 639. /i&Aofra faeotfcu. Opera, torn. I. p. 425. 

27 The original is as follows: 

428 Siris : a Chain of 

of this heat, that he maketh it the object of no sense. It is that 
occult universal nature, and inward invisible force, which actuates 
and animates the whole world, and was worshipped by the ancients 
under the name of, Saturn ; which Vossius judges not improbably 
to be derived from the Hebrew word satar y to lie hidden or con- 
cealed. And what hath been delivered by Hippocrates agrees with 
the notions of other philosophers: Heraclitus (sect. 157), for in- 
stance, who held fire to be the principle and cause of the genera- 
tion of all things, did not mean thereby an inanimate element, 
but, as he termed it, itvp aeifcoor, an everlasting fire 28 . 

176. Theophrastus, in his book De Igne 2 ^, distinguisheth between 
heat and fire. The first he considers as a principle or cause ; not 
that which appeareth to sense as a passion or accident existing in 
a subject, and which is in truth the effect of that unseen principle. 
And it is remarkable that he refers the treating of this invisible 
fire or heat to the investigation of the First Causes. Fire, the 
principle, is neither generated nor destroyed, is everywhere and 
always present (sect. 157); while its effects in different times and 
places shew themselves more or less, and are very various, soft and 
cherishing, or violent and destructive, terrible or agreeable, con- 
veying good and evil, growth and decay, life and death, throughout 
the mundane system. 

177, 30 It is allowed by all that the Greeks derived much of their 
philosophy from the Eastern nations. And Heraclitus is thought 
by some to